JANESVILLE, Wisc. (CBS) - After Senator John McCain lost the 2008 presidential race, much of the republican spotlight landed on his vice-presidential pick, Sarah Palin. Now observers are wondering if the same thing will happen to Mitt Romney's running mate.
For Mitt Romney losing the presidential campaign likely means the end of the political road, but for Paul Ryan, defeat could lead to a new beginning. Craig Gilbert, Washington Bureau chief of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says, "I don't know if he covered himself with glory, but he kind of met a certain test."
A test that has already led to speculation that Ryan, at just 42, is on the short list for the republican presidential nomination in 2016, a list that includes Florida Senator Marco Rubio and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
And because Ryan will continue as chairman of the House budget committee, his prominence and power will only grow as he goes toe-to-toe with the president in the coming months and years over spending and taxes. Gilbert says, "I think Democrats and Republicans will look to him as a voice, and maybe even the most powerful voice for Congressional Republicans."
The campaign did have some political downsides for Ryan. Critics panned his convention speech. Some on the right felt his conservatism was often strait-jacketed by Romney's advisors. And the limits of his political power were laid bare when the Republican ticket lost Ryan's home state of Wisconsin by a surprising seven points.
But some who know Ryan well say they've seen him respond to adversity before and it only makes him stronger.
George Steil was a law partner of Ryan's father who died of a heart attack when Ryan was just 16. Steil says the tragedy inspired Ryan to achieve an instinct to fight back that Steil says is ingrained in Ryan's character. Steil says, "He's had adversity in life and he knows how to handle it and recover from it and I don't have any doubt that that's exactly what will happen here. He'll go on and be every bit as successful as and more successful than he's been in the past."
There have been suggestions that Ryan's wife Janna is uncomfortable on the political stage. And some say his three young children could discourage him from another run.