Romney camp took great pains to conceal Ryan VP pick

Mitt Romney, right, with his newly announced vice presidential running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., standing behind him, during a campaign rally in Manassas, Va., on Saturday, Aug. 11. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Mitt Romney, right, with his newly announced vice presidential running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., standing behind him, during a campaign rally in Manassas, Va., on Saturday, Aug. 11.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
(CBS News) MANASSAS, Va. - The story could have been ripped straight from the pages of a Cold War-era spy novel: There were sunglasses and baseball caps, decoys and back routes through the woods.

As presidential candidate Mitt Romney settled on his running mate, Paul Ryan, his campaign over the course of 10 days went to extraordinary lengths to conceal the information and meetings between himself and Ryan from the eyes of an eager press corps.

The search began not long after Romney wrapped up the nomination. On Apr. 16, he announced that Beth Myers, his senior advisor and a longtime aide, would lead his VP search committee. "I had one directive," Myers said in a briefing with reporters on Saturday evening. "That the candidates must be qualified to take office on day one."

Myers spent the next month and a half soliciting advice from those who had been in her shoes, such as Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of State James Baker. By May 1, the inner circle of advisors created their short list and Romney began calling all of the candidates to ask if they would be considered. None refused.

(Watch: Romney flubs, announces Ryan as "next president of the United States.)

A small team of volunteer attorneys helped Myers assemble the research on the candidates, from policy information to questionnaires each one filled out. The information was kept under lock and key in individual safes in the campaign's Boston headquarters so as not to leak out. That included "several" years of tax returns, Myers told reporters, though she would not specify how many.

By June, Myers was ready to interview the top candidates, and a retreat for top donors in Park City, Utah, provided cover. The short-listers were brought in ostensibly to talk policy with Republican financiers, but also were able to slip away for meetings with Myers.

While Romney was vacationing in Wolfeboro, N.H. during the week of July 4, Myers made the trip north with a few advisors with plans to review the final dossiers. Romney postponed a final decision until after his trip abroad at the end of July, and assembled his top advisors for a final "gut check." Romney then informed Myers of his choice on Aug. 1.

"This is Mitt's decision. He gave me direction every step of the way," said Myers, who said she opted not to share her thoughts with Romney on the advice of an old mentor.

The same day, they placed a call from her office to Ryan to arrange a meeting for Sunday, Aug. 5. Romney had not yet extended an offer.

And with that, the Romney campaign's intricate game of cat and mouse was on.

Four days later, Ryan traveled to Chicago from his hometown of Janesville, Wis., where he flew from to Hartford, Conn. -- both locations chosen to avoid media attention. Having been instructed by the Romney campaign to "dress casually," he wore jeans, a casual shirt, a baseball hat and sunglasses.

In Hartford, Myers' 19-year-old son picked Ryan up at the airport in a rented SUV and brought him to her home in Brookline, Mass., about 100 miles away. A short time later, Romney himself arrived at the house, along with four of his top aides: Ed Gillespie, Matt Rhodes, Bob White, and Spencer Zwick.

While the group entertained itself in Myers' home, Romney and Ryan met for an hour privately in the dining room. When they came out, Myers said, "It was all set."

  • Sarah Huisenga On Twitter»

    Sarah Huisenga is covering the Mitt Romney campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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