Outside of party leaders, the better comparison to Ryan might be from before the ratification of the 17th amendment to the Constitution that provided for direct election of Senators. In 1908, voters elected Rep. James S. Sherman, a Republican from Utica, N.Y., as vice president. Sherman served two stints in the House from 1887 to 1909. Like Ryan, Sherman rose to a committee chairmanship, holding the gavel of the House Indian Affairs Committee for 14 years.
Sherman was an inside Washington choice whom very few knew outside the Capitol. Sherman served so often as the presiding officer of the chamber that Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge (R-Mass.) recognized that job function in eulogizing Sherman on the Senate floor.
The Senate historical office noted that Sherman probably had very little effect on the race. Sherman ran on the ticket led by Vice President William Howard Taft. Taft faced off against William Jennings Bryan, who had won the presidential nomination for the third time and for the third time would prove unsuccessful.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.