Dulles, VA. - It was a picture-perfect unveiling -- the majestic USS Wisconsin draped in bunting as a backdrop, with a stage surrounded by thousands of cheering supporters. All the pomp and circumstance worthy of a vice presidential announcement.
Only it wasn't supposed to happen this way.
"We were originally going to make the announcement Friday," Beth Myers, the close adviser tasked with vetting potential VP candidates for Mitt Romney told reporters Saturday. "We were going to announce in New Hampshire."
Until tragedy struck and Paul Ryan's duty as a Congressman to attend a memorial service following a shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin forced a temporary delay.
In a rare glimpse into a notoriously secretive process, the Romney campaign held a briefing with Ms. Myers to discuss the behind-the-scenes events culminating in Mitt Romney's decision to pick Paul Ryan as his number two.
"This was Mitt's decision," she emphatically stated. "He gave me direction every step of the way."
Some of what was discussed was part of the mundane vetting process. But the days leading up to the announcement, full of deception and secrecy, were more fitting of a Hollywood spy movie.
The elaborate scheme to hide Romney's decision from members of the press, capping off months of volunteer lawyers pouring through documents both public and supplied by the potential candidates, began Aug. 1 with a phone call from Myer's office.
After alerting Myers to his decision, Romney called Ryan from her office and requested a face-to-face meeting in Boston. The date was set for Aug. 5.
Ryan boarded a plane from Chicago's O'Hare airport bound for Hartford, CT, where Myers' 19-year-old son Curt was waiting. Dressed somewhat incognito -- in jeans, a casual shirt, a baseball cap, and sunglasses -- the Congressman's trip went completely undetected.
Curt then drove Ryan to Myer's house in Brookline, Mass., where he met Romney. The two held a private meeting in her living room, during which Romney offered him the VP slot, and Ryan accepted.
"I kind of knew it was going to happen and I was very humbled," Ryan later told reporters on a charter flight to Charlotte, NC, the next stop on a four day bus tour through five swing states. "It was the biggest honor I've ever been given in my life."
Romney then returned to his summer home on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, while Ryan received news of the mass shooting and remained behind and contacted his staff in Wisconsin. He then was driven back to Hartford and flew back to O'Hare, again unnoticed.
On Aug. 10, working with his aide Andy Speth, Ryan put in motion the plan that had been carefully scripted.
Two airports -- departing from Waukegan, Ill. and arriving in Elizabeth City, N.C. -- had been chosen to usher the soon to be Republican vice presidential pick and his family from their home in Janesville, WI, to the event planned in Norfolk, VA.
He left the house with his wife and three kids to attend the memorial service. Following the service, the family split up with his wife and kids heading straight to the airport.
Ryan was driven home by his aide, where his sister-in-law was waiting for him. In order to throw off members of the press who had been trailing his every move for weeks, Ryan walked out the backdoor and through woods behind his house, where he met back up with Speth. The two then sped off to the airport to meet his family, leaving everyone thinking he was still in the house.
The plane landed in Elizabeth City completely undetected, where Ryan met up with Myers and other senior Romney staffers at a Fairfield Inn. He made the hour-long drive from North Carolina to Virginia the next morning where he was introduced to America as Romney's running mate.
"It's gone from the surreal to the real, I guess."