Life changes big-time for small-town Ryan, if he wins on Tuesday
Click here for all of the election results with stories, galleries, podcasts and more.
Romney selects Ryan
Click here to view a special section on Paul Ryan, selected to be Republican candidate Mitt Romney's running mate in the 2012 presidential campaign.
Paul Ryan knows the nation's capital, but if he becomes vice president, he would be thrust into an entirely different life.
"He goes into the high-rent district," said Wayne Youngquist, senior lecturer in sociology at UW-Whitewater.
The vice presidential residence is a mansion on the grounds of the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.
"It's on a beautiful hill. It's just a great area," Youngquist said. "He'd just be in a different world than as a member of Congress."
Voters on Tuesday, of course, will decide whether Ryan will move into the vice president's residence.
"From the standpoint of creature comforts, that part of it will be very pleasant, and the Secret Service makes sure you can move around without any hassles," Youngquist said.
Ryan talks a lot about his love for his life in his home state and hometown. He and his wife, Janna, are raising their three children in the same neighborhood where Ryan grew up.
But Ryan would be hard pressed to fulfill vice-presidential obligations and commute home, even with Air Force Two at his disposal.
"I can't imagine he and his wife didn't talk about this—whether they were willing to live in Washington, D.C. And the fact that he accepted the nomination is a pretty clear indicator that they will do what they need to do," said Ken Mayer, an expert in the American presidency at UW-Madison.
"I think he's the kind of person who wouldn't let his ambitions override his family, and I think it can be done. I think he can balance it," Youngquist said.
Ryan could go hunting, one of his favorite pastimes, within an hour's drive of D.C., Youngquist pointed out.
Mayer said the Ryan children would be somewhat sheltered, as the news media generally agree to leave the children out of their coverage.
Vice presidents have lived in the 9,150-square-foot, three-story Victorian since 1977. The house features extensive grounds, a swimming pool and recent renovations.
The Ryans could choose from several good private schools, some catering to those who work in nearby embassies or U.S. government service, Youngquist said.
If the Ryans choose public schools, those schools would do everything they could to make sure it was a good experience, Youngquist said.
Janna Ryan would be expected to entertain at the residence, and her husband would attend many funerals and other social events. He'd go on overseas trips, acting as a backup head of state, Youngquist said.
But that's not set in stone. Exactly what the vice president does is almost entirely the president's decision.
The vice president has two constitutionally prescribed roles: He casts the deciding vote if the Senate deadlocks, and he takes over if the president becomes unable to serve.
Presidents have given different vice presidents a variety of duties. Some with Capitol Hill credentials have become the president's point man with Congress, and that's a distinct possibility for Ryan after 14 years in the House.
But it's hard to know how a President Romney would do it.
Romney chose Ryan to secure the party's conservative base, so Ryan likely would continue in that role, both in Congress and in the party, Youngquist said.
Ryan might become a regular stand-in for the president on news shows. "He's good at that. He comes across very well," Youngquist said.
Big role/small role
"In recent times, vice presidents have had much more responsibility than historically, and I think you can date that to Al Gore," said Susan Johnson, political science professor at UW-Whitewater.
Gore's portfolio included the environment and reforming the bureaucracy, Johnson noted.
"I would suspect we would see something similar with Paul Ryan. You look to whatever is the natural fit," Johnson said.
"The fact that Romney has no experience with working in Congress, I would think that Ryan would be a natural there," Johnson said.
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee and longtime Ryan friend, said a Vice President Ryan couldn't do favors for his state or his hometown.
"He adores Janesville and Rock County, and he's got a lot of pride in the fact that he grew there and still lives there," Priebus said. "I think all those things play a role, but ultimately you're responsible to all Americans."
Nevertheless, Priebus thinks this moment is huge for Wisconsin, as part of the general conservative trend, together with the elections in 2010 of Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ron Johnson.
"Paul really is the poster child for the new Republican Party in America, so I think it really is a big deal historically, and in Wisconsin I think it's a source of pride, whether you're a Democrat or Republican," Priebus said.
Youngquist said Ryan's connections to Walker and Priebus, also players on the national stage, will bring attention to the state.
Mayer doesn't see much of a difference.
"Does it make a huge difference to the state if the Packers win the Super Bowl? The answer is probably not, other than it gives us bragging rights over Bears fans," Mayer said.
"I think the practical implications of a Romney victory is it would set up Ryan for a subsequent run at the presidency," Mayer said.
"Should Romney lose on Tuesday, I think Ryan becomes the front runner immediately," Johnson said, although that's no guarantee of a nomination in 2016.