(NEW YORK) — Clandestine flights. A slight disguise. Long drives to out-of-the-way airports by an aide’s 19-year-old son. An afternoon dash through the wooded ravine behind Paul Ryan’s house in Janesville, Wis.
These were just some of the things the Mitt Romney campaign did to keep the world from knowing the presumptive Republican presidential nominee had decided to pick Ryan as his running mate.
Beginning in April, Romney aide Beth Myers and a team of lawyers extensively vetted several possible vice presidential candidates, but, in the end, Ryan was the only candidate Romney met in person to discuss the job.
From the start, Myers went to extraordinary lengths to keep the process secret. Her team worked in a secure room at Romney’s Boston campaign headquarters. Each night they kept the most sensitive documents — including several years of tax returns from each of the finalists — in a safe. They made no copies.
“No copies were ever made and all work was done in that room,” Myers said.
But it was Romney’s final interactions with Ryan that were most elaborately shrouded in secrecy.
“We gave a lot of thought on how to make this work undetected,” Myers explained.
It started on Aug. 1, when Romney informed Myers that he had decided Ryan would be his running mate. Romney then called Ryan and asked him to come to Boston for a meeting on Aug. 5.
Instead of flying directly to Boston, where he might be seen arriving in the city where Romney has his campaign headquarters, Ryan flew from Chicago into Hartford’s Bradley Airport. To keep from being recognized, he wore casual clothes, a baseball hat and sunglasses.
“We sent my 19-year-old son to pick him up,” Myers said.
Myers’ son Curt shuttled Ryan from Hartford to Myers’ home in Brookline, Mass., driving the car right into her garage before Ryan got out. Ryan had lunch with Myers’ family while Romney drove in from Wolfboro, N.H. — also entering her home through the garage.
At Myers’ dining room table Romney and Ryan met alone for one hour — the one and only meeting Romney had to discuss the job with a potential candidate. Romney offered the position and Ryan accepted.
Shortly after, Romney drove back to New Hampshire and Myers’ son drove Ryan back to the airport in Hartford. Meanwhile a handful of other senior advisors — including campaign manager Matt Rhoades, Ed Gillespie, Bob White and Spencer Zwick — gathered that afternoon at Myers’ house to begin preparations for an announcement the campaign planned to make on Friday, Aug. 10 in New Hampshire.
The Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin and the memorial service for the victims on Friday forced a change of time and venue to Saturday in Norfolk, Va.
With reporters now staking out all of the final candidates, Myers began to get more creative in keeping Ryan’s movements secret.
After Friday’s memorial service for the victims of the Sikh temple shooting, reporters saw Ryan get dropped off at his home by his aide Andy Speth. He walked in his front door, but then proceeded to sneak out his back door, through his backyard and into a wooded ravine behind his home. Ryan was then picked up near the house at the other end of the woods.
Ryan knows the woods well — the house at the other end of the woods is where he grew up as a boy. He had a tree fort in those woods.
“I know those woods like the back of my hand,” Ryan told reporters Saturday night on Romney’s campaign plane. “So it wasn’t too hard to walk through them. So I just went out my backdoor and went through the gully in the woods I grew up playing in. I walked past the tree that has my own tree fort I built back there.”
Ryan’s wife and children, meanwhile, had gone to Speth’s house while reporters were with Ryan at the memorial service.
Instead of flying out of Milwaukee or Chicago Friday, Ryan was whisked to the airport in Waukegan, Ill., where a private plane was waiting to take Ryan and his family to Elizabeth City, N,C., at 5 p.m.
Back in Janesville, Ryan’s sister-in-law spent the day inside Ryan’s home — turning lights on and off and making it appear Ryan and his family remained inside.
Ryan, his family, Myers and a handful of top aides spent Friday night at the Fairfield Inn in Elizabeth City, where they ordered take-out from Applebees for dinner.
As the campaign announced that the vice presidential announcement would happen the next morning, Myers turned off her phone and went to bed. With a single Secret Service agency along, Ryan and others drove, unnoticed, to the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk for the announcement.
Although Romney did not meet with any of the other candidates to discuss being a running mate, Myers said she met with some of the finalists during a big June fundraiser at Park City, Utah.
Myers would not say with whom she met, but several potential candidates were there, including Condoleezza Rice, John Thune and Tim Pawlenty.
While most of the candidates not chosen were informed on Thursday, Pawlenty got early notice: Romney called him on Monday to tell him he would not be his running mate.
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