By Sandra Sobieraj Westfall
April 11, 2018 04:19 PM

Editor’s note: House Speaker Paul Ryan announced on Wednesday that he is retiring in 2019 and will not seek re-election in November. Now, take a look back at the Wisconsin Republican’s days as a rising star in the party, when he was former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate, in this 2012 PEOPLE story.

Surfing in the aisle and assembling peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches in the galley, three generations of the Romney and Ryan families were making fast friends when PEOPLE hopped on the campaign bus Aug. 12, the day after GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, 65, brought Rep. Paul Ryan, 42, aboard. The seven-term Wisconsin conservative, a pro-life Catholic, puts the ticket solidly on the right on both social and fiscal issues. He also comes with three young kids-playmates for the Romney grandchildren, who often tag along. During an exclusive chat, the two men-plus wives Ann Romney, 63, and Janna Ryan, 43-made discoveries about each other that even the VP vetting team hadn’t turned up.

Governor, in the 24 hours since introducing your running mate, what have you learned about him?

Mitt Romney: He’s got a great sense of humor-I guess with three young kids you have to. His grace in dealing with children is absolutely delightful.

Mrs. Romney, what do you see in the chemistry between the men?

Ann Romney: They’re able to communicate on this very intellectual policy-wonk level.

MR: I like policy. I like solving tough problems. Same thing with Paul.

But can he quote O Brother, Where Art Thou?

MR [to Paul Ryan]: Have you seen that movie?

Paul Ryan: Yeah, of course!

AR: It’s our favorite. We can quote the whole movie.

MR: He’s probably seen it once and he can quote the lines. I’ve seen it multiple times, and it’s taken me a long time to get the quotes. [Laughter]

Rep. Ryan, you’re the same age as the Romneys’ son Tagg. Do you see the governor as an equal?

PR: I do see him as a partner. When he offered me to join the ticket, the two things he said to me were that we share the same values and that I can help him execute because of my experience. So what I see is I offer a complementary set of skills to help him govern.

Mrs. Ryan, what does Gov. Romney need to know about your husband’s work style and habits?

Janna Ryan: He’s pretty low-maintenance. Paul goes with the flow and has one of the sunniest demeanors and most positive outlooks of anyone I’ve ever met. I’d say Mitt’ll probably have a lot of fun with him.

Congressman, given your family history [his father, grandfather and great-grandfather all died of heart attacks in their 50s], what’s your health regimen?

PR: I do the P90X [DVD cardio] workout and [another program] called Insanity. And I try to eat well.

Any food weaknesses?

PR: I drink coffee in the morning.

What’s on your workout playlist?

PR: I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, so I listen to classic rock: AC/DC; Zeppelin.

What are you reading for fun?

PR: I read policy. Fun? Fun is biographies. And I listen to lectures from the Great Courses in the car wherever I go. I’m listening to a great one on Voltaire right now. I enjoy studying the Enlightenment, which is 18th-century debate.

Any low-brow pleasures, like The Real Housewives?

PR: I don’t have time, but I like movies. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is on my iPad.

Who does the home finances?

PR: It’s a joint effort. I do most of the bill paying. We buy a lot of used stuff.

JR: I’m a consignment store shopper. I love a bargain.

What was your last splurge?

PR: I don’t know. We don’t buy a lot of things. I’m a big hunter, so splurging is: I got a new bow last year. Oh, I got a new chain saw. It was nice. It’s a Stihl.

MR [with boyish envy]: You got a Stihl chain saw?

The congressman also likes to “noodle,” which is wrestling catfish bare-handed, I hear. Have the two of you made a noodling date yet?

MR: Uh, I’m not going to be doing a lot of noodling. I enjoy fly-fishing, but noodling, I’m afraid, I’ll leave to Paul.

Rep. Ryan, a blog suggests “Dreamy” as your Secret Service code name.

[Both women laugh]

PR: We won’t pass that on. Are we allowed to say [the code name]?

MR: No.

JR: But it’s not Dreamy!

Last one: First thing a Vice President Ryan would do on Jan. 20, 2013?

PR: Be ready and help him govern.