The most important part of Ryan Lizza's new profile of Paul Ryan is his explanation for how Ryan was able to gain influence within the GOP and ultimately set its policy agenda. It was Ryan's use of think tanks and conservative magazines that led to Ryan's budget becoming the policy of the party:
Although the ranks of House Republicans were thinner after the 2006 elections, Ryan was sent back to Washington and won the top Republican spot on the Budget Committee. Now he had a large staff of economists working for him and access to the resources of the Congressional Budget Office, which could provide detailed analyses of his proposals. Once again, he set about testing the bounds of conservative ideology within the Party. It was his job to draft an alternative to the new Democratic majority’s budget. Even for the smaller, more conservative G.O.P. caucus of 2007, Ryan’s draft was so extreme that forty out of two hundred and two Republicans voted against it.
He returned the following year with something more polished and more ambitious. In May, 2008, working with two other young Republicans, Kevin McCarthy, of California, and Eric Cantor, of Virginia, who had watched the immolation of the congressional wing of their party during the Bush years, Ryan remade his budget into something he called the Roadmap for America’s Future. Rather than just build support inside Congress, he promoted the Roadmap through the rich network of conservative media and think tanks that helped influence Republican members. “I thought fiscal policy was on the wrong path,” he told me.…
Conservative intellectuals at National Review and the Heritage Foundation loved the Roadmap, and Ryan became an icon within the insular world of right-wing pundits. In Congress, things were different. In 2008, with midterm and Presidential elections looming, the Roadmap attracted just eight co-sponsors. Only the most astute observers of G.O.P. internal politics noticed what was happening. In a celebratory column about the Ryan plan in the Washington Post, titled “Fiscal Medicine Man,” Robert Novak, the late conservative writer, predicted, “After what is expected to be another bad G.O.P. defeat in the 2008 congressional elections, Ryan, McCarthy, and Cantor could constitute the party’s new House leadership.”…In July, Boehner distanced himself from the plan. But Ryan’s outside-in strategy, of building support among conservatives who would pressure Republican leaders to embrace his ideas, started to pay off. An editorial in the Weekly Standard stated that “Republicans should embrace Ryan’s Road Map.” Dick Armey, the former congressional leader, who had become a Tea Party organizer, demanded that Republicans have the “courage” to back Ryan’s plan. Boehner’s position insured that most Republican candidates didn’t listen to Armey’s advice, and in 2010 they campaigned against Obama’s alleged cuts to Medicare rather than for Ryan’s plan to end the program.