Elm Grove, Wisc. & Washington, D.C.
THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned that the Romney campaign has begun to prepare a vigorous effort in support of Paul Ryan if he is selected as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick—something now likely to happen soon. For example, GOP officials tell THE WEEKLY STANDARD that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is among a group of Republicans who has been asked to be ready, in terms of his schedule and other practical preparations, to make the case publicly for a Romney-Ryan ticket as early as Saturday. 

This of course does not mean the Wisconsin congressman will necessarily end up as Romney’s running mate. The Romney campaign may be working to lay the groundwork for one or two other possible picks, though THE WEEKLY STANDARD has been unable to find evidence of any comparable preparation for other candidates. Or the Romney team could be engaging in some last minute misdirection, as other campaigns have done. In 2000, much of the attention in the days before the announcement of Dick Cheney as Bush’s running mate focused on John Danforth, thanks to nudging from inside the campaign. And in 2004, the New York Post splashed on its front page a story indicating that Richard Gephardt would be John Kerry’s running mate. It’s entirely possible that the Romney campaign is engaging in the same kind of shenanigans.

But if the signs pointing toward Ryan, increasing in number, are meant as a feint, it's an odd one. Ryan is popular among conservatives and Republicans, and the talk about him is generating lots of excitement in conservative and GOP circles. The campaign would presumably be acting to tamp down Ryan speculation if Ryan weren't going to be the pick, in order to avoid a sense of letdown if he's passed over. But the campaign is doing no such thing. Rather, it seems to be preparing observers for Ryan. 

Thursday night, in an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Romney responded to a question as to what he wanted his vice presidential selection to convey. "I certainly expect to have a person that has a strength of character. A vision for the country, that, that adds something to the political discourse about the direction of the country. I mean I happen to believe this is a defining election for America; that we're gonna be voting for what kind of America we're gonna have."

Ryan has spent much of the past year describing the election in similar terms—not simply as a referendum on Barack Obama’s presidency, but a choice between two competing, and very different, American futures. And Ryan has said he thought Mitt Romney shared that view. Here's how Ryan put it in an interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD on May 3:

“It’s very clear from his [Romney's] last three or four speeches – and he’s very involved in writing these, setting this message – that he wants to bring this to a choice. Not just a referendum on Obama’s bad stewardship but on the American idea itself and a choice of two futures. It seems clear to me – because he’s embraced the kind of economic reforms we need to get the American idea back on track and prevent a debt crisis – that he is willing to bring this thing to the clear, clean choice it needs to be to give to the country. And that he’s ready to do that. And that for all the risk-aversion stories that have been written about him he seems to me that he’s gotten himself in the mindset of understanding the moment we are facing and the need to bring this real clear conversation to the country about the choice they have to make. And that these founding principles are really important. And so I really feel like – this is probably not the election he thought he was going to run, say two years ago when he first decided to run, but I think he’s become extremely comfortable and accepting of what it is and what it needs to be. Everything he says and does gives me a sense of that."

Romney and Ryan bonded as they barnstormed Wisconsin in the days leading up to the state's decisive April 3 primary. Over the course of their travels together, Ryan went from a small role as the guy who introduced Romney at their first event,to someone who shared the stage with him, taking some of the questions and bantering easily with Romney. The expanded role, Ryan told TWS in May, was Romney’s idea. “He knows how I talk and what I say. And I’m pretty clear about that stuff. I think he’s comfortable with that.”

Romney, it seems, may have become so comfortable with Ryan personally and intellectually that he's close to tapping him as his running mate.

UPDATE: Mitt Romney will be announcing his vice presidential pick tomorrow, the campaign confirms.