"All I can do is trust Paul Ryan"

The truth, of course, is that Ryan has set an aggressive timeline for passing the legislation, and he’s made clear he doesn’t want to allow any major changes before it comes up for a vote. Only in the past 48 hours—as party leaders scrambled to salvage the bill—has Ryan indicated that he’s open to substantially tinkering with it.

But to many of of the speaker’s longtime critics, the kind of unswerving faith Woodson demonstrates in the strength of Paul Ryan’s character and the goodness of his intentions is maddening. Only a willful suspension of disbelief, they argue, could lead so many people—be they political reporters, or Washington wonks, or antipoverty crusaders—to continue seeing what they want in Ryan, regardless of the actual policies he tries to enact.

Earlier this week, I phoned Woodson again to see if his thinking had changed at all since we’d last spoken. He told me he was brushing up on health-care policy, and said his nonprofit was working to line up talks and testimonials on the issue from low-income Americans. “What we’re going to be doing is taking a group of people who are suffering from these problems and give them a voice,” he said. “I’m not going to presume to speak for them.”

When I asked him about Ryan he again offered praise, but it was more measured and careful this time. “I know from four years of traveling the country with Paul Ryan that he has the interests of those people he has met at heart,” Woodson told me.