Mitt Romney's decision to tap Paul Ryan as his running mate elevates to the national stage a serious-minded policy wonk from the heartland who became a philosophical leader of the Republican Party when the GOP took control of the U.S. House less than two years ago.
The Wisconsin Republican unveiled a bold and politically risky budget blueprint in 2011 that would fundamentally restructure the nation's social safety net and overhaul Medicare. Just four House Republicans voted against it, transforming Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" in to the guiding fiscal vision for the GOP ever since. The Democratic-controlled Senate did not pass the bill.
In his seven terms in the U.S. House, Ryan, 42, has shown a distaste for election-year politics and a sober embrace of the tough policy decisions Washington faces to balance the budget and rein in the deficit. "If we simply operate based on political fear, nothing's ever going to get done," Ryan said in March.
First elected to Congress in 1998 at 28 years old, Ryan was already known on Capitol Hill because he had worked as a congressional aide in two U.S. Senate offices and as a speechwriter for Jack Kemp, the former House member who was the 1996 GOP vice presidential nominee.
He served largely as a backbench lawmaker until the 2008 financial crisis, when the party's need for cogent voices on the economy elevated Ryan's profile. He was serving as the top Republican on the House Budget Committee at the time, but Democrats controlled the chamber.
Ryan, along with now House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., branded themselves the "Young Guns" for the Republican Party and released a book in September 2010 outlining their vision.
By the time Republicans took control of the House in 2010, Ryan was viewed inside Washington as one of the party's brightest young stars.
Like Romney, Ryan has an analytical mind and enjoys pouring over data sets and economic projections. He has an affable, Midwestern demeanor and looks that mirror those of Romney's five adult sons, and he embraces a clean-living lifestyle similar to the Romneys, who do not drink alcohol.
Ryan is Catholic, married and has three young children. He is a hunting and fishing enthusiast and a fitness fanatic - he is a disciple of Tony Horton's P90X exercise regimen and has said he maintains his body fat between 6%-8%. Asked by Politico in a 2010 interview to name his biggest vice, he replied: "two cups of coffee every morning."
He has long been a favorite of the conservative intelligentsia. The Wall Street Journal editorial board, an influential voice among conservatives, has lauded his economic vision and last week offered their endorsement of him as vice presidential contender - a nod echoed by other influential conservative voices including William Kristol, who also advocated for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to pick Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in 2008.
While Ryan's intellectual bonafides are clear, he does not have a significant record of translating his visions into law or a broad portfolio outside of the fiscal realm. He asked Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, not to put him on the "Super Committee" which failed last year to reach a deal on a $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction package. Ryan said he would instead address the nation's budget issues from his perch on the Budget Committee.