WASHINGTON -- He didn't ride into the District on a white horse, but Paul Ryan got a hero's welcome from House Republicans when he returned to the Capitol chamber from the vice presidential campaign trail on Thursday.
Still an active member of Congress, Ryan made a brief stop here to vote on a government spending bill, and his colleagues threw a pre-vote party to celebrate the rise of the young Wisconsin congressman. Dozens of House Republicans trickled in and out of a private room on the second floor of the Capitol for a quick visit with the candidate. He greeted each of them individually before posing for pictures and discussing each of their House races around the country, people who were in the room told Yahoo News.
Ryan discussed what it was like having around-the-clock Secret Service protection, assured his colleagues that he was keeping healthy and eating well and joked about adjusting to not driving a car and being shuttled across the country since Mitt Romney added him to the Republican ticket last month.
Ryan said that life on the vice presidential campaign trail was like "being in a bubble," said Florida Rep. Daniel Webster, who attended the meeting.
"Everybody was huddling around him so we didn't really get any in-depth conversation but he just talked about how life has changed," said Missouri Rep. Billy Long, who for the past nine months has been calling Ryan "Mr. Vice President." "He'd always smile at me like, Really, that's not going to happen. But it's happened and we're all pretty excited for him in there."
Before he became a vice presidential candidate, Ryan used to lead a group of congressional members in a pre-dawn workout, and most of his gym buddies stopped in to see if he kept in shape on the trail.
"I told him he's looking soft. He needs to get back to the gym," said Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake, adding: "Kidding."
"We're definitely missing him," said Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock, who, like Ryan, is a devoted user of the P90X workout regimen. "But there's a good enough core group that have kept up with it. It's almost surreal to see just six weeks ago the guy who was sleeping on his couch in his office just one of us, rise to this position. It makes us all proud."
After the meeting, Ryan walked to the House floor with Speaker John Boehner to cast his vote. The chamber burst into cheers when he entered, and he didn't get ten feet from the door before getting mobbed by House members putting their arms around him and slapping him on the back. Even some Democrats, including Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who is playing the role of Ryan in practice debate sessions with Vice President Joe Biden, said hello.
On Friday, Ryan is scheduled to deliver a speech at the Values Voters Summit. But not before leading one more P90X workout session in the Capitol gym in the morning--for old time's sake.