Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney will have lunch Thursday at the White House with President Obama in the private dining room, a show of bipartisanship three weeks after the conclusion of a tough, sometimes nasty, election season.
The meeting, their first since the final presidential debate Oct. 22 in Florida, comes amid the increasingly antagonistic negotiations between the White House and Congress to avert the looming fiscal cliff. Press will not be allowed at the private lunch, press secretary Jay Carney said in a brief statement Wednesday morning.
A Romney aide called the lunch a gracious invitation from the president that the former GOP presidential challenger was glad to accept. Romney is also meeting with former running mate Rep. Paul Ryan while in town Thursday.
Obama said during his election victory speech in Chicago three weeks ago that he intended to invite Romney to meet with him. During a news conference at the White House on Nov. 14, Obama said that Romney “presented some ideas during the course of the campaign that I actually agree with.”
Citing Romney’s oversight of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City as an example of his managerial expertise, Obama added that those skills for trying to make programs work better apply to the federal government.
“There are a lot of ideas that I don’t think are partisan ideas but are just smart ideas about how can we make the federal government more customer-friendly,” Obama said. “How can we make sure that we’re consolidating programs that are duplicative? You know, how can we eliminate additional waste?”
Since election night, Romney has all but disappeared from the public sphere. He has emerged only in photos taken by bystanders who spotted him pumping gas and visiting Disneyland. He has not tweeted since Nov. 10; his recent Facebook messages are about Thanksgiving.
Obama met with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in Chicago shortly after McCain lost to Obama in the 2008 election. That meeting was private, as well, but photographers and a pool reporter were given a few minutes of access.
This week, Obama launched an aggressive public relations campaign aimed at forcing Congress to accept his proposals to avert the year-end fiscal cliff — when a mix of tax increases and mandatory spending cuts could jolt the economy back into recession.
Obama has called on Congress to extend the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class, but to allow them to expire for households earning more than $250,000 a year. The president has said that voters sent a message that it agrees with his approach versus that of Romney and other Republicans, who favor extending the tax cuts for everyone.
During his news conference two weeks ago, Obama said of Romney: “There may be ideas that he has with respect to jobs and growth that can help middle-class families that I want to hear. So, you know, I’m not either prejudging what he’s interested in doing, nor am I suggesting I’ve got some specific assignment. But what I want to do is to get ideas from him and see if there are some ways that we can potentially work together.”