WASHINGTON — Bitter campaign foes just weeks ago, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are sharing lunch at the White House with an eye on overlapping interests rather than the sharp differences that defined their presidential contest.
In their first meeting since the election, Obama and the Republican nominee are to meet in the White House's private dining room Thursday, fulfilling a promise Obama made in his victory speech the night of Nov. 6.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama had no specific agenda for the meeting, but he said the president would like to discuss Romney's ideas for making government more efficient. Obama has proposed merging some functions of government related to business and has asked Congress for authority to undertake some executive branch reorganization.
"The president noted that Gov. Romney did a terrific job running the Olympics and that that skills set lends itself to ideas that could make the federal government work better, which is a passion of the president's," Carney said.
Obama aides said they reached out to Romney's team shortly before Thanksgiving to start working on a date for the meeting. The two men will meet alone in the White House's private dining room, with no press coverage expected.
While in Washington, Romney will also meet with his former running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, according to a Romney campaign aide. Ryan is back on Capitol Hill, where he's involved in negotiations to avert a series of automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts that have come to be known as the "fiscal cliff."
Much of that debate centers on expiring tax cuts first enacted in the George W. Bush administration. Obama and Romney differed sharply during the campaign over what to do with the cuts, with the Republican pushing for them to be extended for all income earners and the president running on a pledge to let the cuts expire for families making more than $250,000 a year.
The White House sees Obama's victory as a signal that Americans support his tax proposals.
Obama and Romney's sit-down Thursday was expected to be their most extensive private meeting to date. The two men had only a handful of brief exchanges before the 2012 election.
Even after their political fates became intertwined, their interactions were largely confined to the three presidential debates.
Romney has virtually disappeared from politics following his election loss. He's spent the past three weeks largely in seclusion at his family's Southern California home. He has made no public appearances, drawing media attention only after being photographed at Disneyland in addition to stops at the movies and the gym with his wife, Ann.