Rep. Paul Ryan sat in the front booth of Baumgartner’s Cheese Shop and Tavern on a recent weekday, his wiry frame hunched over a plate filled with slices of smoked Gouda. He waved me over to take a seat. When the waitress stopped by, he told her, earnest as ever, that I would like a Limburger sandwich. He chuckled. “You know, that’s the worst smelling cheese they’ve got,” he said.
That about sums up how Ryan feels about the press these days. Two years after his unsuccessful vice presidential run, the 44-year-old Republican has been typecast as a wonky House insider who is unlikely, if not unwilling, to run for president. Ryan’s lack of early maneuvering has helped feed the impression.
But over the course of an hour-long lunch and several refills of unsweetened tea, Ryan made clear he is irritated by the conventional wisdom. He’s not a House “lifer,” he said. A presidential campaign remains a distinct possibility. And he brushed aside the head start by his potential rivals as unseemly positioning during a midterm election. “I don’t see the point in it,” Ryan said. “It’s not fun.”