WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are meeting for lunch at the White House, hoping to discuss their overlapping interests instead of the sharp differences that defined their presidential contest.
Obama and the Republican nominee are meeting for the first time since the election, gathering in the White House's private dining room. The two men are meeting alone with no press coverage expected.
Romney arrived at the White House early Thursday afternoon in a black SUV. He stepped out of the passenger side and walked into the West Wing alone.
Romney met earlier in the day with his former running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.
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.
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.
The Associated Press