“Paul Ryan effectively captured the Republican presidential candidates”

But those who know him cannot seem to dislike him.

“I’m stunned by how oblivious he is to the pain his policies would cause people,” said David R. Obey, a Democrat from Wisconsin who jousted often with his downstate colleague before retiring from the House at the end of 2010. “What amazes me is that someone that nice personally has such a cold, almost academic view of what the impact of his policies would be on people.”

For all the talk of Led Zeppelin on the iPod and bowhunting in season, Mr. Ryan got serious at a young age, his brother Tobin, 47, said. His family was not particularly political. His parents liked Ronald Reagan, but they also supported their Democratic congressman, Les Aspin…

Among Republicans in and outside Mr. Ryan’s immediate circle, the admiration verges on infatuation. They gush about his athleticism: At 42, he is “in kick-butt shape,” said Representative Aaron Schock of Illinois. They laud his bowhunting: “It’s a little harder, takes more expertise and a lot more concentration,” said Representative Kevin McCarthy of California.