Daily Herald: Peter Roskam, Paul Ryan follow parallel paths
By Kerry Lester
TAMPA — House GOP Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam says Mitt Romney’s choice of Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan provides more insight into his style as a leader than any “single other move” the former Massachusetts governor has made on the campaign trail.
“Good leaders and good executives get good people in good positions,” Roskam said of Romney Thursday, hours before the GOP nominee delivered his nomination acceptance speech. “What Romney has seen in Ryan is a person of talent.”
Roskam praised Ryan’s ability to collaborate with others in the House.
“How Ryan conducted himself in the House is a glimpse of how he will act as vice president,” Roskam said. In leading efforts to craft a House budget plan, Roskam said, Ryan showed he was “very thoughtful, very collaborative,” one who placed a major emphasis on listening.
The attributes Roskam described are ones the Wheaton Republican has come to know and use well himself at his position at the leadership table, flanking House Speaker John Boehner, Leader Eric Cantor, and Whip Kevin McCarthy since being appointed to the post in November 2010. In many ways, Roskam and Ryan are following parallel paths.
Like Ryan, the 42-year-old seven-term congressman from Janesville, Wis., it is through hard work and relationship-building that Roskam got to his position of power, political observers say. And those qualities, they say, have Roskam poised for even greater power — depending on his performance.
From the beginning, Roskam has made a habit of studying up on members’ backgrounds and pressures. That is a practice, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Plano noted, that helps Roskam both bring local issues to the leadership table — and national perspective back home.
“Peter Roskam is going to change the face of what happens in Washington,” Hastert said. “He knows that district (he represents), he knows where people go, he knows where they hide.”
House Speaker John Boehner, who spoke to the Illinois delegation earlier this week, was well versed in the state’s Democratic-drawn congressional map.
“They’re very well-informed about what’s going on in Illinois’ high-profile races at the leadership table,” Roskam said from his seat with the Illinois delegation on the convention floor, his wife and sons behind him. Roskam is the one serving as the informant.
Like Ryan, Roskam worked his way up in the Republican ranks through relationship-building, strategic committee placement, and working behind the scenes to advance the GOP agenda. Ryan and Roskam’s staffs are close — Roskam’s former communications director moved to Ryan’s budget staff last year.
In 2007, when Roskam arrived in Washington fresh off a six-year stint in the state Senate, Hastert — who supported Roskam during his first congressional bid in 1998 — helped him get on the financial services committee. Two years later, Dan Mattoon, a veteran Washington lobbyist and political adviser, approached Roskam about trying to get onto the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which is the oldest committee in Congress and the chief tax-writing body in the House.
Now it is Romney and Ryan, Roskam says, who have an opportunity to “fundamentally reform the tax code.”
Because of Ryan’s strong relationship with leaders in the House, Roskam says, Ryan would be a point person in the presidential administration in dealing with Congress.
To first win the White House, Roskam said, Republicans need suburban independent votes.
Barack Obama won 57 percent of the vote in the 6th Congressional District in 2008. Roskam said, before citing poll numbers that today put the president at about 40 percent in the largely Cook, DuPage and Lake county district.
“That tells you that independent voters — who make all the difference in the world — say we gave that team a chance and they have squandered what we entrusted to them,” he said. “We get to do something about that.”