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Family id, ego, and super-ego

Janna Ryan steps lightly into national spotlight

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images – Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), his wife, Janna, and their children greet supporters during a campaign rally at the NASCAR Technical Institute on Aug. 12 in Mooresville, N.C.

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By Krissah Thompson, Monday, August 13, 3:01 AM

The day after her husband joined the Republican presidential ticket, Janna Ryan waved, smiled and shook hands. But when offered the microphone at a raucous rally, she chose not to speak — even when Mitt Romney himself invited her to take the floor.

Paul Ryan’s wife — a former tax attorney, lobbyist and congressional staffer with degrees from Wellesley College and George Washington University Law School — is taking careful first steps into the harsh spotlight that comes with a run for the White House.

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Having grown up in a family deeply rooted in Oklahoma’s Democratic politics, Janna Ryan is accustomed to the rigors of political life. But as adoring crowds of Republicans turn out to see her husband, she seems conscious of the size of the stage on which she is now standing.

Jann Ryan conducted her first interview Sunday with celebrity-friendly People magazine, describing her husband’s work style and personal habits.

“You know, he’s pretty low-maintenance,” said Janna Ryan, who is now a stay-at-home mom. “Paul is someone who goes with the flow and has one of the sunniest demeanors and most positive outlooks of anyone I’ve ever met. So I’d say Mitt’ll probably have a lot of fun with him.”

Friends say Janna is a good complement to her husband. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who has known Janna for more than two decades, said, “She is comfortable talking to people at the Sand Bass Festival one day and having dinner with the governor the next. There’s no stiffness to her. No awkwardness.”

That adaptability was honed in her childhood, say those who know her. Paul and Janna Ryan are both from wealthy, well-connected families. His owns a construction company that has been in the family for more than a century. Her uncle, David Boren, is a former Democratic governor and now president of the University of Oklahoma. Her great-grandfather also ran for governor and started a law firm in town where her father, Dan Little, still works, according to the Daily Oklahoman. Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) is her first cousin.

Janna’s father served on the University of Oklahoma board of regents and her late mother, Prudence, also was involved in civic life, sitting on the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. The value of the trust that Prudence “Prud” Little left her daughter, which ranges between $1 million and $5 million, according to Ryan’s financial disclosure statement, is one of the family’s largest assets.

In leaving her skyrocketing career as a lobbyist who represented clients including the Cigar Association of America and United Parcel Service to raise her children, Janna is following the example of her mother, who also graduated from Wellesley and attended law school before marrying and moving to rural Oklahoma to raise three daughters.

Both Catholic, Janna and Paul Ryan were introduced by a mutual friend in Washington in 1999. They had run in the same circles on Capitol Hill, where he was a staffer before being elected to Congress at 28. When they began dating, Janna had recently broken up with a longtime boyfriend. Her courtship with Paul got serious quickly.

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