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Can Ryan and Obama reopen the government; beat debt limit deadline?

Rep. Paul Ryan waved at the media Friday as he headed to the office of House Speaker John Boehner.

Story highlights

  • After keeping a low-profile, Paul Ryan emerges with key role in Washington's standoff
  • President Obama and Ryan are political rivals but not enemies
  • He changed the tenor of a meeting at the White House and engaged Obama
  • Obama and Ryan have past relationship that could benefit the negotiations

Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is two for two.

The Republican from Janesville, Wisconsin, has successfully appeased House Republicans and engaged President Barack Obama in as little as 48 hours. A feat near impossible in these times of extreme partisanship.

After laying low, Ryan swept into the budget battle crippling Washington with a plan to break the stalemate that has resulted in a government shutdown and no agreement so far on avoiding a possible U.S. debt default.

With an op-ed and some persuading, he effectively moved demands by tea party aligned House Republicans on government funding and debt away from Obamacare.

Op-ed doesn't mention Obamacare

Ryan responds to critics

    That enabled House Republicans to propose an approach on Friday on the fiscal impasse that still hasn't met President Barack Obama's chief requirements, but hasn't scotched negotiations, either.

    Obama, Boehner agree all sides should keep talking

    The Ryan Express chugged into the White House on Thursday with other House Republican leaders where he again waited for his opportunity to make an impact.

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    In that meeting, progress seemed elusive as the two sides talked past each other.

    Then, the 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate stepped in. And the tone of the meeting changed.

    Key moment in White House meeting

    Ryan conceded his side wouldn't get all it wanted while Obama asked how he could make something happen.

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    Republicans left the executive mansion expressing optimism, motivated to get to work. The White House admitted progress.

    But can Ryan push a deal over the finish line?

    He might be the person in the Republican Party to do it.

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    The Republican's chief negotiator, House Speaker John Boehner, has been unable -- or unwilling -- to reach a deal with the President amid the shutdown.

    Boehner and Obama have a fractured history of bitter negotiations. Both said afterward they felt burned by the other. Though they did talk by phone on Friday and agreed talks should go on.

    Ryan and Obama, on the other hand, have a completely different relationship.

    They were the fiercest of competitors during the presidential election. Even after, they remain political foes.

    "Now that the president is implementing his agenda, we'll see that the benefits are far less than advertised," Ryan said at the National Review Institute in January, just days after Obama was inaugurated for the second time.

    While they spent months criticizing and deriding each other on the campaign trail, the mantra of politics is not personal seems to be true with these two.

    After Thursday's meeting, Republican Rep. Steve Southerland of Florida said they obviously respect each other.

    "Paul and the President certainly have a pass through the last election and I think there's a great respect between them. And you can't make that up." Southerland said, adding that "the communication between Paul and the President, I think, was an important part of the conversation."

    What's more, a White House official told CNN that the President viewed Ryan's op-ed as an opening and provided an opportunity for negotiations to open the government and lift the ceiling to take place.

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    Ryan is steeped in fiscal matters as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

    The two politicians are only nine years apart, and while their positions on government spending are the role of government sit on opposite ends of the political spectrum, the have a bit in common.

    They both tap into the younger generation yet have an academic approach to their work. But most importantly, they seem to get along.

    CNN's Gloria Borger put it this way: Ryan and President Obama have a "preexisting condition." They have a prior relationship built on ideological differences not personal insult.

    "They respect each other," Borger said.

    The last time they worked together was six months ago. During the last budget battle in March, Obama invited Ryan and his Democratic counterpart on the Budget Committee, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, to lunch. It was the first time Obama and Ryan had sat down together since the presidential race.

    Van Hollen said at the time that "their relationship is developing."

    One of their first public encounters, however, was mixed. When Obama invited himself to a Republican retreat in Baltimore in 2010, he took questions from the members while the television cameras rolled.

    Ryan introduced himself as "a ranking member of the Budget Committee," indicating he wasn't sure the president knew who he was.

    After a back and forth about the budget, the president abruptly cut Ryan off, ending the discussion.

    Obama later complimented Ryan, saying, "I think Paul Ryan is a pretty sincere guy and has a beautiful family." Obama joked. "And by the way, in case he's going to get a Republican challenge, I didn't mean it. Don't want to hurt you, man."

    Fast forward to today. While they have been on different sides of nearly every debate, their relationship is not broken. And in today's Washington, that's saying a lot.

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