By Erik Wasson and Russell Berman - 09/13/12 10:02 PM EDT
Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan got a hero’s welcome from his colleagues on Thursday as he returned to the Capitol for the first time since being named by Mitt Romney to the GOP ticket.
The Wisconsin lawmaker was greeted with hugs and shouts, posed for photos with colleagues and took some good-natured ribbing about his newfound national status.
For Ryan, the scene presented a stark contrast from his last visit to the Capitol, when he cast votes in early August before his selection as Romney’s running mate made him a household name. Nearly a dozen security guards surrounded him as he entered shortly before 4:30 p.m., and they cleared a path through a line of reporters who followed his every move.
Ryan smiled and greeted reporters throughout the nearly two hours he spent in the Capitol, but he ignored substantive policy questions. He did allow a few remarks on his music and workout tastes, and as he left the building he predicted his Green Bay Packers would defeat President Obama’s hometown Chicago Bears on Thursday night.
GOP lawmakers rushed to House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office to greet the man who could leapfrog Boehner in the line of succession to the presidency.
After the meeting, a beaming Boehner walked Ryan to the door of the House chamber where he was greeted with shouts.
Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, is the first sitting House member to be selected as a presidential running mate since Geraldine Ferraro in 1984.
"I'm just here to see some friends,” he said.
“We are excited to see him,” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said. “To have somebody that they have worked with this whole time, to have someone they respect ... to see him again, it’s a lot of excitement.”
“A lot of members who know him personally, he is campaigning in their districts and he is bringing more people out,” he added.
McCarthy said it was Ryan who called to set up the meeting with GOP lawmakers, telling party leaders he would have some free time before the vote to chat.
Members said they discussed family and politics with Ryan, but not legislation. “No policy!” Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) told reporters.
Ryan inquired about members’ individual races, and Republican after Republican emerged from Boehner’s office saying they hoped their famous colleague would stump in their districts. “We’ll take him whenever we can get him,” said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who is running for Senate.
Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) said Ryan has been in his district three times and he is grateful for the help.
“He is coming to my district on Saturday so we were just reminding him where he is going to be ... he is just so likable,” he said.
Members posed with Ryan for photos but didn’t give him high-fives.
“We wanted to be more respectful, we shook his hand,” Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) said.
“We’ve always known Paul as just another one of us and now with the Secret Service, it’s unusual,” he said. “The other thing is all the people getting their picture with him. We’ve known him for the last 10 years!”
“I gave him a good, stern handshake,” Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La. ) said. He said no policy was discussed and he respected Ryan’s decision to vote for the spending bill even though Landry is going to vote no.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said his advice to Paul Ryan was, "Get out of here! Go back to Ohio."
And Flake joked of Ryan that "he's getting soft. We've got to get him back in the gym." Ryan is known to lead P90X workouts with House colleagues.
And when Ryan went to the House floor to vote, he received a sustained standing ovation from his GOP colleagues.
But it wasn't just Republicans who were clamoring over Ryan.
Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel (N.Y.) was one of the first lawmakers to greet him. And Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking Budget Committee member to Ryan's chairman, had a warm conversation with the Wisconsin lawmaker. Van Hollen is playing Ryan in the Democratic vice presidential debate preparations.
In all, it took Ryan about 15 minutes to make it more than 10 feet from the front door of the chamber. Only when presiding officer called for order did he hurry to cloakroom, where several lawmakers, including Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) went to talk to him.
Democrats all day have been using Ryan's presence to highlight his budget plans and to attack the GOP ticket.
"Gov. Romney embraced the repeal of Medicare [by picking Ryan]," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters in the Capitol on Thursday. "That was a sad day for our country and for Medicare, but at least it put the focus on the issue.
"I guess he was catering to his base, but whatever he thought was a good idea at the time ranks along there with some of his other poor judgment," she added. "I've always been optimistic [about winning the House], but, yeah, I'm more optimistic [now]."
— Mike Lillis and Bernie Becker contributed to this report.
— This story was last updated at 6:50 p.m.