6 curious facts about Paul Ryan

Many Americans recognize Mitt Romney's veep pick as the GOP's leading budget wonk, but what else do we know about this arguably non-boring white guy?

The youthful vice presidential pick drove the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile in college.
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Mitt Romney's selection of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his running mate has shaken up the presidential race. Ryan is famous — or infamous, depending on your political stripe — for his House GOP budget proposal, which sought to slash taxes and spending, and redefine Medicare. But beyond Ryan's shameless wonkiness, most Americans know little about the seven-term Republican congressman from Wisconsin. Here, six rather unpredictable facts about the GOP's vice presidential candidate:

1. He had the best college job ever

Ryan worked for hot-dog maker Oscar Meyer in college, says Jamie Weinstein at The Daily Caller, earning an opportunity some people covet more than the vice presidency. Yes... Paul Ryan got to drive the Weinermobile.

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2. Ryan stood out — in good ways and bad — in high school

Paul Ryan was voted prom king in high school, says Matthew DeLuca at The Daily Beast, but the young man with the Eddie Munster-like widow's peak wasn't universally admired. Ryan's 1988 year book notes that in his senior year he was voted "Biggest Brown-Noser."

3. He's a fitness obsessive

Ryan's father had a heart attack and died at age 55, when Ryan was just 16. His grandfather and great-grandfather also succumbed to heart failure in their late 50s. That history is one reason, says Eliza Shapiro at The Daily Beast, that "Ryan is very serious about personal fitness." He leads a group of congressmen who routinely perform the notably intense P90X home workout. He reportedly boasts a body-fat ratio of 6 percent, making him one of the buffest candidates for top office ever.

4. Ryan is an avid bow-hunter

Presidential candidates often pick veeps who shore up weaknesses in their resumes, says James Rainey at the Los Angeles Times. So it makes sense that Romney, who caught grief for unconvincingly claiming to be a lifelong "varmint" hunter, would want Ryan by his side. The Wisconsin congressman is an accomplished bow-hunter: His Facebook page even shows him "in full cammo and muddied boots — proudly posing with a big, hearty buck deer." Such blood-thirst should give the Romney ticket instant cred in the world of "big-boy hunting."

5. And he catches catfish with his bare hands

For several years now, Ryan has been into fishing without bait... or even a rod, says Peggy Fikac at the Houston Chronicle. The sport, called "noodling," involves finding a hole where a giant catfish is hiding, reaching in, and dragging out the beast by its gills. For Ryan, it's not just a pastime, it's a political metaphor. "I want to say something to you Texans — because you understand freedom," Ryan has said. "You now legally recognize a man's right to catch a catfish with his own bare hands."

6. Ryan started his career writing speeches for Jack Kemp

If Ryan, with his friendly demeanor and enthusiasm for cutting tax rates for entrepreneurs, reminds you of Jack Kemp, there's a good reason, says Albert Hunt at Bloomberg News. Ryan once worked for Kemp, who was Bob Dole's vice presidential candidate in 1996, as a speech writer. "Ryan has often cited Kemp as one of his mentors," says Byron York at the Washington Examiner. But Romney's veep will be a better, more focused candidate than the late Kemp, a self-proclaimed "bleeding heart conservative" who was notoriously undisciplined on the campaign trail.

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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