Wisconsin Rep. Ryan Seen as Future of GOP

He's young, charismatic and conservative.

The Heritage Foundation, a prominent conservative think tank in Washington, has anointed this rising GOP star "the leader of the future of the conservative movement."

No, it's not Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty or House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia.

The man supposedly tasked with carrying the hopes and ambitions of an entire political party is Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

At 39, Ryan has become the go-to-guy on policy.

"I'm the man of the hour because I'm the top Republican on the House Budget Committee," he told FOX News in an interview.

Republicans are desperately seeking a new generation of leaders as it attempts to recover from two devastating election cycles that stripped them of power in Congress and the White House.

Ryan could be the man to lead the party back to power.

Elected to Congress in his 20s, he's a self-described nerd.

"I've been reading federal budgets since I was 22-years-old," he said. "That's kind of a weird thing to admit. It kind of makes me look like a dork."

A husband and father of three children, Ryan's got a knack for simplifying complex budget concepts.

"When my kids are my age, the federal government will have to tax 40 cents out of every dollar just to pay for the federal government we have today at that time," he said. "You add the Obama budget ambitions on top of it, it gets even worse. You will destroy this country's prosperity."

Ryan displayed his knack for numbers by crafting a House Republican budget plan that would have cut taxes and radically overhauled Medicare. The plan, a stark alternative to blueprints offered by President Obama and his Democratic allies, would have frozen overall spending on domestic programs passed by Congress each year and repealed most of the spending in Obama's recently passed economic stimulus bill. But Democrats rejected his plan Thursday.

Still, Ryan is comfortable zinging the White House budget director by day and hobnobbing at the White House with the chief of staff and treasury secretary by night.

He's confident, not cocky -- he picks up his own dry cleaning -- but he's clearly being groomed.

Ryan, however, is wary of party elders. Like last year's GOP presidential nominee, John McCain, he fancies himself a reformer, blaming "them" -- the nameless Republican old guard -- for abandoning principle and shrinking the party.

"A lot of them have retired. A lot of them have lost their elections, and so the way I see it is we've got a younger breed of reformers in the party," he said. "That breed has got to take over and become a reform party."

Ryan is promoting, not bending, conservative principles to expand the party.

"If you believe in freedom, liberty, self-determination, free enterprise, I don't care if you're a Muslim, Jewish, Agnostic, Christian, gay, straight, Latino, black, white, Irish, whatever. Join us."