Who is Paul Ryan?

(CBS News) JANESVILLE, Wis. - Paul Ryan has represented the state of Wisconsin in the U.S. House of Representatives for 14 years.

His district lies in the southeast part of the state, and includes his hometown of Janesville, an industrial city of 64,000 people the Ryans have called home for five generations.

Ryan lives in an historic home in the well-to-do Courthouse Hill neighborhood where he grew up.

Just two months ago, Ryan introduced Mitt Romney at a rally in Janesville, where he graduated Joseph Craig High school in 1988 and still attends St. John Vianney Catholic church.

His family's construction business, Ryan Inc., is more than a century old, founded by his great-grandfather in the 1880s

When Ryan was 16, his father died of a heart attack, at 55.

"When he was 16 and lost his dad, I could see a little more seriousness come about him," said George Steil, who was a law partner with Ryan's father. "He still was the friendly, affable type of guy, but I think he became a little more serious."

After college, Ryan worked briefly for the family business but was drawn to politics of the Republican kind. He was an aide to Wisconsin's former U.S. Senator Robert Kasten and Kansas's then-congressman Sam Brownback, now governor. Ryan worked for the think tank run by Jack Kemp, the longtime congressman turned cabinet secretary and vice presidential candidate.

When Ryan ran for Congress at 28 in 1998, family friend Steil was quick to rally support.

"Everybody liked him," said Steil, "and I think if you went around the community here in Janesville today, you would be hard pressed to find anybody that didn't like Paul Ryan."

In Congress, Ryan has made the federal budget his focus and curbing the national debt his mantra.

"We've got to get ahead of this problem," he told constituents at a town hall last year, "and we don't want to have a situation where we just keep kicking the can down the road, assuming we can keep going on as we are."

Ryan advocates deep cuts in government spending and lower taxes. He publicly confronted President Obama over his health care reform in 2010.

"This bill does not control costs," he said at a White House summit. "This bill does not reduce deficits. Instead, this bill adds a new entitlement."

After the Republicans won control of the House of Representatives two years ago, Ryan became Budget Committee chairman and proposed freezing domestic spending.

He called the President's proposed budget cuts "paltry" -- just $40 billion year in the face of trillion dollar deficits.

"I don't think history is going to look kindly on a president that when confronted with one of the country's most pressing challenges -- a debt crisis -- chooses to do nothing about it," Ryan had said in an interview with CBS News in April.

"You know, he's a divisive figure," said Scott Angus, Janesville Gazette editor. "His proposals have in many people's minds have been way to the right."

He also said while Ryan's budget proposals are controversial, the newspaper has endorsed him in all seven of his elections.

"If you know Paul, regardless of whether you agree with his politics, you get a guy that comes across as extremely sincere. Again, what you see is what you get."

Asked if he would be surprised if they're any skeletons in Ryan's closet, Angus said: "I really would be. He seems pretty squeaky clean."

On the personal side Paul Ryan and his wife, Janna, have 3 children ages 10, 8 and 7. For recreation, Ryan likes to hunt deer with a bow and arrow. He has a ranch in Texas where he likes to catch giant catfish with his bare hands.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.

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