“It’s an unwritten [rule], just leave the work stuff at work,” said Rep. Tom Graves, one of Ryan’s close congressional friends and a member of his exercise group—and a triathlete. “What makes it nice is that it’s just personal. It’s us just hanging out, working out, talking family, talking about sports.”
“That’s been sort of crossed lately with all the leadership stuff going on, but we’re getting back to that,” added Rep. Markwayne Mullin, who leads a separate circuit-training group that Ryan joins on Fridays. “Typically we didn’t talk about politics at all. If we did, that’s all that would be done down there. You might as well turn it into a committee at that point.”
Graves has family in Wisconsin, while Mullin represents the district that houses Ryan's father-in-law’s ranch, where Ryan vacations and hunts. The district, in fact, used to be represented by Rep. Dan Boren, who is Ryan’s wife’s cousin.
“There’s three things that started in common with us: Family is on the top of both of our lists. … Then, of course, workouts and the work ethic,” Mullin said, although he stressed that he is not in the P90X group, saying, “We call that the dance routine.”
“Paul doesn’t go out and do a lot of things in the evening," Mullin added. "He doesn’t have a lot of hobbies outside of working out and being with his family. That’s my hobbies too.”
Mullin said Ryan visits his sons when he brings them to the Hill and said they often send photos of hunting trips with their young children. It’s little surprise, then, that when Mullin’s name was called on the House floor to vote for Ryan, his 10-year-old boy, Andrew, enthusiastically answered instead.
“I said, ‘Boys, if you’d like to, you can stand up with me when I vote, when they call my name.’ And Andrew just busted right up—'Paul Ryan!'” Mullin recalled. “Andrew said, ‘Well Dad, I thought that’s what we’re supposed to do. He’s my friend.’”
Ryan has also served as a mentor. Mullin said he consulted Ryan when he decided to run for majority whip. And Graves said Ryan helped him get a seat on the Appropriations Committee, even though he was known as a fiscal hawk.
“He sort of took me under his wing and whether it be P90X or it be policy, he was there to show me the ropes,” Graves said. In turn, Ryan has an ear in Graves. Ryan called him the Sunday before he became speaker, Graves said.
“I’m like, ‘What are you doing? You have a few days of freedom left.’ He said ‘You won’t believe it, let me tell you. Today I had the wife and the kids and my mom and I was driving the minivan—knowing that today might be one of the last days that I’m driving the minivan, because once I leave Wisconsin everything changes. … And I was sitting in the deer stand knowing today might be the last day I sit in the deer stand for a little while in solitude,’” Graves said.