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President Obama has invited his former Republican rival Mitt Romney to dine with him at a lunch Thursday, fulfilling a promise he made in his election-night speech to seek guidance from Romney in his second term.
The two men will dine in the White House's private dining room. It will be their first face-to-face meeting since Romney lost the election to Obama by 3.5 million votes.
The luncheon will also be the most extensive meeting that they have ever had off the debate stage, despite their long and grueling campaigns against one another.
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Lunch: President Obama has invited his former Republican rival Mitt Romney to dine with him at the White House, fulfilling a promise he made to seek guidance from Romney in his second term
A happy Thanksgiving: Romney has kept a pretty low public profile since his defeat on Nov. 6. He is pictured here with his wife, Ann, on Thanksgiving
Meetings like this one between presidential challengers is primarily a symbolic gesture of bipartisanship and not all that uncommon.
Obama and his 2008 Republican challenger, Arizona Sen. John McCain, met at the White House shortly after McCain's defeat. The meeting was private, though reporters and photographers were let in the room for a couple minutes to snap a few photos.
In his victory speech on election night, Obama praised Romney and said he looked 'forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.'
A week later in his first post-election news conference, Obama insisted that he would make good on his promise to consult Romney in his second term, saying there were 'certain aspects' of his background that could help the country confront the fiscal challenges in the years ahead.
'I do think he did a terrific job running the Olympics,' Obama said. 'And you know, that skill set of trying to figure out how do we make something work better applies to the federal government. There are a lot of ideas that I don’t think are partisan ideas but are just smart ideas about how can we make the federal government more customer-friendly.'
All smiles: Romney appeared to be having a good time at Disneyland with his sons and grandchildren
Budget impasse: President Barack Obama, right, and top Republican John Boehner, left, met this month to discuss the fiscal cliff but there has been little progress towards a deal
Looking back: The luncheon will be the most extensive meeting that the two men have ever had off the debate stage
Obama aides reached out to Romney shortly before Thanksgiving to start working on a date for the meeting.
'It was a gracious invitation from the president, which Mitt Romney was glad to accept,' a top Romney aide said.
The timing of Obama's meeting appears strategic, coming in the same week that he launched an aggressive campaign aimed at forcing Congress to accept his proposals to avert the fiscal cliff, a series of automatic tax increases and spending cuts that threaten to send the U.S. economy spiraling into a second recession.
The Congressional Budget Office has predicted that if the fiscal cliff is not avoided, the U.S. unemployment rate could rise to 9.1 percent by the end of next year, compared to 7.9 percent now.
Timing: The announcement of Obama's luncheon with Romney came as Obama delivered remarks at the White House, in which he held out a pen and said he is 'ready to sign' a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff
Obama is proposing that Congress end tax cuts for families making more than $250,000 a year, but Republicans are opposed to the idea.
While in Washington, Romney will meet with his former running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who is working on the Republican side of negotiations.
Pumping gas at his local station in La Jolla, Romney was happy to talk about his California plans
Romney has kept a low profile since his defeat, deliberately avoiding the political spotlight while many in the party distanced themselves from him in the days and weeks after the election, especially after a conference call with donors in which he said Obama won the election because of 'gifts' he bestowed on constituencies like Hispanics, blacks and young people.
Photographs and sightings of Romney's post-election lifestyle reveal that he is relishing a 'normal' existence after the grueling pace of the campaign.
He was spotted attending the movie 'Twilight' with his wife and dining on pizza afterward. He was also photographed at Disneyland on roller coasters with his sons and grandchildren.
A motorist snapped a photo of Romney pumping gas recently and the former Massachusetts governor posted of photo of himself and Ann enjoying Thanksgiving together. Appearing scruffy and unkempt in a blue T-shirt, Romney had his arms wrapped around Ann in their kitchen as she appeared to be cooking.
But it was revealed on Wednesday that Romney might soon be returning to work in the private sector.
Romney's former aides confirmed to the Associated Press that he is expected to move into an office at the Boston-area venture capital firm Solamere Capital, which was co-founded by his eldest son, Tagg, and Spencer Zwick, who served as his campaign's national finance chairman.
He will not be working for Solamere, the Washington Post reports, but simply leasing an office space there.
VIDEO: Obama speaks on Middle Class Tax Cuts on Wednesday:
Negotiations: President Obama is urging Congress to approve a deal that would end tax cuts for people making more than $250,000