American leadership focus of Obama-Romney lunch
November 29th, 2012
03:20 PM ET
4 months ago

American leadership focus of Obama-Romney lunch

Washington (CNN) - Mitt Romney's lunch at the White House Thursday was not how the former GOP nominee would have imagined it a month ago, but it did provide a postscript to this year's punishing presidential battle.

The former candidate, whose motorcade during the campaign could shut down streets and stretch entire city blocks, arrived at a side entrance of the executive mansion in a single black Lincoln SUV. He sat in the front passenger seat.

The defeated Republican presidential candidate lunched on white turkey chili and southwestern grilled chicken salad with President Barack Obama in the private dining room, where their discussion centered on "America's leadership in the world and the importance of maintaining that leadership position in the future," according to a description of the lunch from the White House.

"They pledged to stay in touch, particularly if opportunities to work together on shared interests arise in the future," read the statement from the White House, which also released a photo of the two men in the Oval Office.

READ MORE: Man arrested after charging at Romney's SUV

Two Republican sources said the luncheon was very friendly, describing it as mostly social.

The two men discussed domestic and foreign policy issues, including how to maintain America's leadership and help spur innovation, according to a Romney aide.

Anyone but Obama and Romney themselves can only speculate on the actual words exchanged Thursday, since the meeting was closed to all press. It was the first meeting between the rivals since they faced off in an often-contentious presidential election campaign, and was one of the rare moments the two actually faced each other in person. Aside from their three presidential debates, Obama and Romney met only once during the 2012 campaign, at an annual fund-raising dinner in New York on October 18.

Even before this year, the two men have rarely crossed paths, meaning their lunch Thursday is only the eighth time the pair has met face-to-face.

The meeting appeared to be a show of bipartisanship as the two men discussed how to maintain American leadership. While word of the meeting raised a bit of speculation that Romney could possibly be considered for some kind of position in the administration, there was no indication from the White House or from Romney's aides that was discussed.

The president first mentioned meeting with the former Massachusetts governor in his victory speech in Chicago on Election Night, saying he looked forward to "sitting down with Gov. Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward."

And two weeks ago, at his post-election news conference, Obama brought up the potential meeting again and praised Romney's management of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, saying "I do think he did a terrific job running the Olympics."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday briefly expanded on Obama's comments, saying, "The president noted that Governor Romney did a terrific job running the Olympics and that skillset lends itself to ideas that could help make the federal government work better which is a passion of the president's. As you know he has requested re-organization authority from the Congress to do just that."

Prior to his lunch with the president, Romney met with his former running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman, at a Washington hotel, a Republican official told CNN.

Following the meeting, Ryan issued a statement saying he was "grateful to Governor Romney for the honor of joining his ticket this fall, and I cherish our friendship."

"I'm proud of the principles and ideas we advanced during the campaign and the commitment we share to expanding opportunity and promoting economic security for American families," Ryan continued in the statement.

A Ryan aide said the meeting was "constructive and positive," and focused both on reflections from the campaign and on upcoming fiscal and economic challenges for the country.

Romney has mostly stayed out of the spotlight since his Election Night concession remarks in Boston, where his campaign was headquartered. While Romney hasn't made any public appearances after the election, comments he made on a post-election call that Obama had won by giving "gifts" to key constituencies were immediately criticized by both Democrats and Republicans.

A national poll out this week indicated Romney's favorable rating was down from pre-election levels, likely due in part to those controversial comments to donors two weeks ago.

"What the president, president's campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote," Romney said on the call.

Romney, who lost to Obama by 126 electoral votes, said the president courted voters by offering policies - some of them this election year - that appealed to key constituencies.

"With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift," said Romney.

Those remarks caused Republicans, including several who are considered possible candidates for the 2016 GOP nomination, to put distance between themselves and their party's former standard bearer.

Those comments may be a factor in the drop of Romney's favorable rating among Americans. According to a CNN/ORC International poll released Monday, 43% of the public had a favorable impression of the defeated GOP nominee, down six points from just before the election. And Romney's unfavorable rating edged up to 50%.

Discussing the lunch, a Democratic Party official who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak freely told CNN that "this is pretty magnanimous of the president, especially after Romney insulted him after the campaign to his donors."

It's not, however, unprecedented: victors have long invited their former rivals for ice-breaking sessions following bitter contests, though some races (including the battle between George W. Bush and John Kerry in 2004) have ended with only a phone call.

In 2008, Obama met with Sen. John McCain after defeating him in the presidential election. The pair met at Obama's transition headquarters in Chicago and issued a joint statement afterwards saying they hoped to work together on challenges such as the financial crisis, creating a new energy economy and protecting the country's security.

"I think there is a tradition here and I think that it is one of the often overlooked but remarkable things about this democracy, this oldest democracy, is that we have, we consistently have elections and either pass power on to a leader of a new party or - because the voters choose - continue to invest power and authority in the office in the same party or same individual without violence and without the kind of anguish and disruptions that you see in so many other countries around the world and you've seen through out history," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Wednesday.

"And I think it is entirely appropriate - and I know the president feels this way - to continue that tradition," he added.

– CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn contributed to this report


Filed under: Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Lynda/Minnesota

    "But Carney shot down such speculation, saying "the president does not have a specific assignment in mind for the governor."

    Give it up, CNN. All this Romney speculation is grade school level nonsense. Romney is set to join up with his son in another venture capitalist company endeavor.

    Obama extended an olive branch to Romney and to his credit Romney agreed to lunch with the President. End of story.

    November 29, 2012 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Can we call this the "milk summit"? Or some other benign, no caffeine drink? One of you reporters should ask them what was the refreshment of choice.

    November 29, 2012 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Yesterday, a reporter asked Jay Carney whether or not Romney was being interviewd for a cabinet post, or some other position in the upcoming administration. What a demonstration of lack of insight that was. In all likelihood, in order for Mitt Romney to be selected, or nominated or whatever, for a position, wouldn't he have to be vetted? Furthermore, wouldn't the vetting process mean disclosing a LOT more tax returns? Duh!

    November 29, 2012 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Well, the President will likely pick Willard's vulture capitalist brain to see which departments of the goverment should merge, be cut, or completely dismantled. I'm sure Sesame Street may come up during the lunch.

    November 29, 2012 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  5. Xavier

    I think Romney, after being trashed for the last six months, should reach over unexpectedly and punch Obama and give him a white eye.

    November 29, 2012 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  6. Rick McDaniel

    Doubtful.

    More about inviting him to switch to the dictator's socialist party.

    November 29, 2012 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  7. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I wish I could be a fly on Romney's food today.
    One of the radio personalities had me in stitches this morning talking about how he would handle this lunch if he were the President and in light of all the fact that there is no love loss between these two.
    To paraphrase:
    All the furniture would be removed from the Oval Office with the exception of my desk and chair. Romney would be eating standing up and out of a paper plate.
    My lunch would consist of surf n turf with a healthy side of vegetables. Romney would be eatihg something he never had before: spam or a bologna sandwich on white bread.
    I would have a nice Merlot with my lunch while Romney sipped on Kool-Aid.
    At the end of the meal you would hear me screaming: "Stop! Romney! Stop hitting me! Get off of me! You lost man! get over it! Stop!".
    I would then have the distinct pleasure of watching the Secret Service burst into the room, manhandle him, forcibly subude him and lead him away in handcuffs while Ann, who'd been made to wait in the hallway, tore her hair out in mortification and shame.

    Alas!.......

    November 29, 2012 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  8. jpmichigan

    Meeting with a past foe, is a photo op moment. Obama met also with McCain, this disrespected him directly, during the Healthcare talks, by sarcastly reminding him on national TV, that he (Obama) won the election, so he will do what he wants, and McCain just sit there a take it all in. Obama has no intention to follow any advise that Romney can give him, for Obma has not and will not decrease the size of government or the deficit.

    November 29, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  9. William Thurston

    I have been very disappointed in Romney's selection to run against Obama. Having him lower himself to meet with this man only validates my disappointment.

    November 29, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  10. Franky

    That is unique about the US, we have managed for more than 200 years peaceable transition power from one administration to the next, it's a stability that few nations in history have been able to achieve and one of the reasons for success. The peaceable succession of power.

    November 29, 2012 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  11. Anonymous

    This is why I love my president. He's not too proud to talk to Romney, even after the scumbag thinngs Romney said about him. You can't hurt the pride of a man who already knows his self worth. Obama isn't one to carry petty grudges.

    November 29, 2012 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  12. Nameharold smith

    Tha president was gonna make a new position. I think it was like a financial position well mitt would b gud at that cause he has gud financial savi so dats tha job he would b gud at

    November 29, 2012 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  13. KLARGAR

    What's on the menu Mr President, well Mitt I had the White House chef prepare a nice big plate of crow for you.

    November 29, 2012 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  14. Lizzie

    Dutch/Bad Newz, VA, still calling people names, you WON, not by much, but you WON, will you call Buffett the same name for doing exactly the same thing, buy a company, rob it of all assets and then file bankruptcy, like he done about 3 weeks ago, but I guess if your a friend of the President then it's good business.

    November 29, 2012 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  15. Justin

    Why is Romney still relevant? He holds no office anywhere. He's just a regular citizen. I have better ideas for the government than he does. Why can't I go have lunch with Obama?

    November 29, 2012 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  16. what's up

    Romney must need a good laugh. So why not talk to a dummy?

    November 29, 2012 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  17. what's up

    Romney must need a good laugh.

    November 29, 2012 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  18. Stephanie in Toronto

    Didn't Obama already have Romney for lunch?

    November 29, 2012 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  19. rs

    What's up?
    Mr. Obama beat Mr. Romney, didn't he? Who is the dummy?

    November 29, 2012 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  20. Brian

    i guess you could let mutt eat at the table with the adults, but i'd make him eat out of a dog bowl.

    November 29, 2012 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  21. Lizzie

    Anonymous, not to forget all the lies the Presidents campaign told and got away with it, attacking a person and their families just because they could, and sweep all the President shortcomings under the rug with the HELP of the media. Must be great to blame Pres.Bush after 4 years for everything, so on the job training has not helped. With the slogan looking forward, you and yours sure look back a lot.

    November 29, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  22. dave oldread

    might be to tip him off.......close the offshore acct;s or your going to be taxed on them !!!!, but realy president obama has much more class than mitt, so its just so fox can have rude things to say tonite on the news. :)

    November 29, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  23. Mark H

    Mitt Romney is only relevant to the portion of America that wants to live in compounds surrounded by guns. Crazies and Mormons. Really the same.

    November 29, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  24. Doc

    What a total waste of time. It’s all for show as usual. Even if Romney did have something of value to share Obama is too arrogant to really listen. The election is over and we need to move on to the fiscal cliff and Obama's 20 day vacation which of course coincide.

    November 29, 2012 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  25. Matt

    All this incredibly vile comments, and you people have the nerve to call conservatives the "haters"...

    November 29, 2012 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
1 2