As he boarded a jet Friday morning at Reagan National Airport — on his way to Chicago, from where he’d drive 90 minutes northwest to his hometown of Janesville, Wis. — Ryan was, in his heart of hearts, still a firm no. And yet he knew, deep down, that he’d have to at least consider it. So Ryan and his team agreed on an operating procedure: After a calming weekend away from the congressional clamor, they would hold daily conference calls during the recess week to discuss new developments in the leadership scramble and determine their path forward.
That weekend, however, was hardly the sabbatical he’d hoped for. Ryan was inundated with e-mails and phone calls from friends voicing their support for him and allies expressing their concerns for the party. The leaders of prominent outside groups working to elect Republicans called Ryan to share scary data on the up-ballot impact of a dysfunctional House. And then there was Romney’s call, which broke through amid all the noise. Their conversation brought the moment full-circle for Ryan and his closest confidants, reminding them of why he’d accepted the VP nomination three years ago. It wasn’t because he wanted to be climb the political ladder and chase the presidency. It was because he was being asked to serve, and he felt he had a duty — to his party, to conservatism, to his country — to say yes.
There was plenty of pushback, however, from those who feared Ryan was being coerced into giving up his prized Ways and Means chairmanship for a workaholic job he’d never wanted. “When you’ve seen a friend or family member who’s already in their dream job, you’d like to protect the guy so he can continue to pursue his goals,” says Tobin Ryan, Paul’s older brother and closest confidant. “So after that wave of persuasion, I almost sensed a counter-wave where other advisers, friends, and family members made sure Paul received a dose of caution.”