WASHINGTON -- When Rep. Paul Ryan first ran for his home district's congressional seat in 1998, he came out in favor of term limits -- at the time a frequently debated topic on which candidates were expected to take a position. Ryan made it a top platform on his campaign's website, saying such limits were essential so that Congress could "become the true citizen legislature it once was."
Good thing Ryan didn't take his own advice.
When Gov. Mitt Romney picked Ryan this weekend as his running mate, he did so based on Ryan's status as the GOP's main policy expert. Ryan has been hailed as a sort of guru for younger, Tea Party-affiliated congressional members. But if he had stuck with his policy on term limits, he might have left Washington long ago; he has gone on to be elected to seven terms and counting.
Back in 1998, Ryan's campaign explained his support for term limits. Although he did not specify the exact number of terms a politician should serve, he hinted that it could be similar to presidential term limits.
"We need to return power to the people by taking it away from a growing political class," his website stated at the time. "One way to do this is by passing a Constitutional Amendment that will limit the number of terms a Congressman or Senator can serve. We have limited the number of terms the President can serve. The same should be done for legislators. I firmly support term limits, and believe they will help answer many of the problems currently plaguing our system."
Still, one group advocating for term limits felt Ryan was weak on the issue. The group campaigned against Ryan after he refused to sign a term-limit pledge. Ryan told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he objected to the pledge because it would have politicians step down after just three terms. Ryan felt it wouldn't be fair without the support of all congressional members. He wanted a constitutional amendment imposing term limits.
When asked by the Journal Sentinel why he believed he won that first race in 1998, Ryan said, "I'm an optimist. I believe in forming good, solid principles and sticking to them ... You've got to stick to your principles."
A Ryan spokesperson did not return a request for comment.