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Dissecting the Romney-Ryan selection timeline

ON A CAMPAIGN BUS IN VIRGINIA -- When Mitt Romney introduced Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate today, it was the culmination of a still-mysterious process that reached its climactic final stages on Aug 1, when Romney told Beth Myers, his former chief of staff, that he had made a decision: he wanted the House budget chairman on the ticket.

That decision date, supplied by campaign advisers, means that Romney selected Ryan before the congressman's boomlet in conservative media, and on the very day of his return from a week-long trip abroad.

Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney pushes a shopping cart into Hunters Shop and Save in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire Aug. 6, 2012.

Five days passed before the two men could meet, but this past Sunday, Aug. 5, Ryan came to Romney for a meeting, likely at the presumptive nominee's home in Wolfeboro, N.H., and accepted the offer.

That afternoon, senior staffers huddled at Romney's secluded estate on Lake Winnepesaukee for hours. Strategist Stuart Stevens was there, as were senior advisers Eric Fehrnstrom and Bob White, along with Myers, the head of Romney's VP search. Over the course of an hour in early afternoon, cars began to peel away from the cul-de-sac, but there was no sign of Ryan, who managed to arrive and depart undetected, despite reporters gathered in town for the start of Romney's protective pool the next day.

At the time, one senior adviser told NBC News the meeting was a "strategy session," that had nothing to do with selecting a vice president, a remark that was likely intended to preserve the secrecy of the selection process.

In Wisconsin, there was no sign of Ryan at his home or around town that Sunday, which was also the day of the Oak Creek shooting at a Sikh temple, in the congressman's district.

NBC's Alex Moe contributed to this report.