DULLES, Va. — Representative Paul Ryan was casually dressed last weekend, wearing sunglasses and a ball cap, walking unnoticed through Bradley International Airport in Hartford.
Waiting for him was a 19-year-old in a rented sport utility vehicle.
Ryan was about to receive the news that he would be Mitt Romney’s choice as running mate, but the delivery of that news — and much of Ryan’s movements and conversations in the days that followed — had to be carried out with the calibrated precision and secrecy of a sting operation.
“We wanted to try to do this very quietly,” Beth Myers, Romney’s longtime adviser who was leading the vice presidential search, told reporters in an empty airplane hangar here on Saturday before Romney’s plane left for Charlotte, N.C. “We looked at maps and put it together.”
It was Myers’s son, Curt, who picked Ryan up from the airport, chosen because Logan International Airport could be too risky. The two drove alone for 110 miles, until they arrived at the Myers home in Brookline. They pulled into the garage, where Ryan got out and shared lunch with the Myers family.
A short time later, Romney arrived, driving with a Secret Service escort and only exiting the car once he had entered Myers’ garage
For about an hour, Romney sat alone with Ryan in the dining room. At some point, Romney asked Ryan to be his running mate.
It was the same day — last Sunday — a gunman entered a Sikh temple in Ryan’s district at home in Wisconsin. Ryan worked with his staff, apparently unaware of his discreet mission to Massachusetts, to craft a response from Myers’s home.
For the next several days, Ryan and the Romney campaign kept quiet nearly every detail about the vice presidential selection, and when and how it would be announced.
The campaign originally planned a Friday announcement, with the hopes of making it somewhere in New Hampshire. When a memorial service for the victims of the Sikh temple was scheduled for the same day, those plans were scrapped.
Instead, they laid the groundwork for the Saturday morning announcement. Because several network producers were outside Ryan’s home on Friday, the campaign attempted to throw them off.
After returning from the memorial service, Ryan walked into his home. He then immediately walked through his house, out the backyard, and through the woods behind his house — he knew them well because his childhood home is behind the house he lives in now.
“I know those woods like the back of my hand,” Ryan said. “So I just went out my back door, went through the gully in the woods I grew up playing in — I walked up to the tree that has the old tree fort I built.”
Ryan’s chief of staff, Andy Speth, picked him up on the other side and drove him to an airport in Waukegan, Ill. The chartered flight flew to Elizabeth City, N.C., a deliberate choice that was out of the way enough to throw trackers off but close enough to Norfolk, Va., where the announcement would take place on Saturday morning.
Ryan and his family met with Myers and her family at the Fairfield Inn in Elizabeth City. They ate takeout from a nearby Applebee’s and did some preparations for Ryan’s speech the next morning.
By the time they woke up, the news had broken.