MANCHESTER, N.H. - Paul Ryan isn't a candidate in a presidential primary, but he got a taste of what it's like today on a trip to a local diner and ice cream shop, staples of presidential candidates in this state that holds the first in the nation primary, but is also a battleground state.
Ryan shook hands and greeted customers at the Puritan Backroom restaurant, which is known for both its chicken tenders and ice cream, and as he went from table to table and finally ended up getting some ice cream himself, he engaged in the face-to-face, handshake-to-handshake campaigning that is reminiscent of the days when there were many candidates in the race and it was cold out instead of a beautiful, but hot New Hampshire day.
Introducing himself to patrons as "Paul," he also met the former state Medicaid commissioner and 2010 gubernatorial candidate, John Stephen.
"Do you know Bobby Jindal?" Ryan said of the Louisiana governor who is a former Louisiana Secretary of Health and Hospitals It was the second time today he name-dropped a man he beat to share Mitt Romney's ticket, mentioning "my friend Rob Portman," at a rally he held with Mitt Romney in Ohio.
With reporters chasing him and reaching over lunching diners to hear their conversations, Ryan spoke to one man eating at the bar who was a supporter. The man told Ryan, "I have a 3-year-old nephew and he says, 'Mitt's the only guy.'"
"Oh, you do?" Ryan asked. "You got him to say, 'Mitt's the only guy?' What else does he say?"
"Down with Obama!" the man said, and they both laughed.
He greeted another fan, this one female and a bit older, a few tables down.
"You are better looking in person," a smiling gray-haired woman told the congressman.
He answered: "I get that all the time. They don't take good pictures. That's the problem. Everyone says that to me. They all think I'm shorter, too."
He then stopped at a table with three women celebrating National Banana Split Day.
"That's huge," the vice presidential candidate said before introducing himself. "Hi, I'm Paul Ryan."
"I know who you are," the woman answered.
"I get that these days," he said.
He made his way over to another table before going to get ice cream himself. He shook a young woman's hand and she introduced herself as Madonna.
"You're Madonna?" Ryan asked in a joking tone. "I really like you in person. Wow. Pleasure. That's pretty cool."
She added, pointing to her belly, "And Caitlyn," noting she was expecting.
"Oh, you've already picked out a name… And you're telling everybody now because this is pretty much public now," Ryan said referring to the crush of reporters. "We always kept the name to ourselves and we would tell everybody the day. That's pretty cool."
On the way out he met the restaurant's owner, Chris Pappas, who is actually running as Democrat on New Hampshire's Executive Council. They didn't cover that issue, instead discussing the restaurant's origins. They claim to be the place chicken tenders were first made.
As Ryan left the restaurant with reporters in tow he went around to the side to order ice cream. With reporters running to keep up, he was asked what he thought of actor Nathan Lane's comment that he is the "Wicked Witch of the West." Lane said it at a Joe Biden fundraiser Friday night.
The House Budget Chairman laughed and said, "He was great in 'The Producers.'"
Ryan ordered a large vanilla sugar cone for a reporter that has been tracking his every move for months, as well as one scoop of peanut butter cup in a cone for himself. Adviser Dan Senor ordered a small cookie dough, while Trip Director Joey Smith ordered a vanilla with hot fudge.
"Since I'm buying - $20 is all I have with me," Ryan said laughing.
It was enough, the total coming to $17.70.
Then he was off again, this time to a fundraiser this evening at the Radisson, the motorcade, the secret service detail and the heat the only differences from the days when he would have bumped into Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum coming in as he was going out.