Obama-Romney lunch focus on American leadership in the world



Washington: Mitt Romney sightings have been rare since his loss earlier this month to Barack Obama in the US Presidential Election, though he has been spotted in California looking haggard.

But the former Republican challenger resurfaced on Thursday to have lunch at the White House with his erstwhile opponent-one of just a handful of face-to-face meetings the two men have ever had.

During the hour-long lunch, the two men discussed "America's leadership in the world" and vowed to stay in touch, "particularly if opportunities to work together on shared interests arise in the future", the White House said in a statement.

The menu included white turkey chili and Southwestern grilled chicken salad, the White House added. The media was not invited to cover the meeting.

The private lunch came amid Obama's tense budget negotiations with Republicans. If the two sides can't make a deal by January 01, automatic tax hikes are set to kick in that both sides say would spell disaster for the US economy.

In his election night victory speech, Obama said he looks forward "to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward".

Romney has faced blistering attacks from his own party in the wake of his defeat in the November 06 election. At a convention of Republican governors earlier this month, some of his more high-profile supporters during the campaign said he was unable to connect with voters and was out-strategised by his opponent.

He has also been criticised for comments he made after the election suggesting Obama won because Democrats promised "gifts" to minority voters.

Newt Gingrich, Romney's bitter rival in the Republican primary, called the comments "nuts".

"This would be like Wal-Mart having a bad week and going, 'The customers have really been unruly,'" Gingrich told ABC News last week. "I mean, the job of a political leader in part is to understand the people. If we can't offer a better future that is believable to more people, we're not going to win."

The blowback from Republicans prompted Romney's chief campaign strategist, Stuart Stevens, to take to the pages of the Washington Post on Wednesday to defend his boss in an op-ed-while sneaking in a dig at Democrats as well.

"Over the years, one of the more troubling characteristics of the Democratic Party and the left in general has been a shortage of loyalty and an abundance of self-loathing," Stevens wrote. "It would be a shame if we Republicans took a narrow presidential loss as a signal that those are traits we should emulate."

IANS