WASHINGTON – Ah, to be a fly on the wall at the White House on Thursday when U.S. President Barack Obama sits down for lunch with Republican rival Mitt Romney, who’s said to be still stunned by his failure to win the White House.
Bitter political foes just a few weeks ago, the men will nosh in the White House private dining room after Obama made good on a promise delivered during his victory speech on Nov. 6.
The lunch is closed to the media — not even a pool photographer is allowed in, likely at Romney’s request. When Obama sat down with John McCain for a similar lunch in Chicago in 2008, the two men posed for photographers.
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has been in near-seclusion at his home in southern California since losing the election he felt certain he would win.
Several of his campaign aides have said they were convinced of victory on Nov. 6, and that Obama’s re-election team was over-estimating how many of his core supporters would actually get out and vote.
Indeed, by late afternoon on election day, Romney told reporters on his campaign plane that he’d written just one speech ahead of the polls closing: a 1,100-word victory speech. His delay in taking the stage after Obama was declared the winner was reportedly due to his need to pen a quick concession address.
Romney, 65, has made headlines only once since his defeat, when he told a conference call of supporters that he’d lost the election because he couldn’t compete with the “gifts” Obama offered to his own constituents —minorities and women chief among them.
While he’s ruled out ever running for public office again, he’s reportedly expressed interest in philanthropic efforts or having another role in future Olympics after successfully helming Utah’s Games in 2002.
Obama wants to hear Romney’s ideas for making government more efficient, the White House says. The president has floated the idea of merging some business-related government agencies and has asked Congress for the go-ahead to re-organize some of the executive branch.
The two men barely know one another, meeting only fleetingly prior to the 2012 election. Their primary source of interaction was the three presidential debates, at least two of which were at times heated and hostile.
The Obama campaign repeatedly portrayed Romney as a callous rich man looking out only for the wealthy, while the Republican painted Obama as a hapless economic failure.
While in Washington, Romney is also meeting with Paul Ryan, his former running mate. The Wisconsin congressman is heavily involved in the so-called fiscal cliff negotiations under way on Capitol Hill.