What we do know is that white turkey chili and Southwestern grilled chicken salad were on the menu, but the real centerpiece of President Obama’s lunch with Mitt Romney today was the photo op—by standing in the Oval Office and shaking hands with his recently vanquished rival, the president was signaling that although he trounced the Republicans three weeks ago, he’s willing to be the bigger man and chop it up with Romney over a meal.
The White House released a statement saying the two men focused on “America’s leadership” and they pledged to stay in touch—you know, in the way that you pledge to stay in touch with that old roommate you couldn’t stand but run into one day at the mall, or the old boyfriend that you stumble across one day in the park with his kids. In other words, the “staying in touch” will never happen, but you feel obligated to say it so that the other person doesn’t walk away thinking that you’re the same obnoxious jerk they remember.
It’s not likely that we will ever find out what was really said during the meeting—unless the release of the Obama White House tapes in 40 or 50 years unearths juicy chunks of heated dialogue from today’s sit-down. But the meeting clearly was seen by both men as something beneficial to both of them. For Romney, he gets a chance to make it appear as if his ideas hold some merit in the eyes of the administration and that he is still a major player. Obama looks like a bold and uncommon leader.
Discussing the lunch, a Democratic Party official told CNN that “this is pretty magnanimous of the president, especially after Romney insulted him after the campaign to his donors.” That would be the statements Romney made during a conference call—not realizing reporters were listening—saying Obama won because he gave “gifts” to constituents like blacks, Latinos and the young.
Apparently Romney’s standing with the public has fallen even more over the past three weeks than was evident on Nov. 6. According to a CNN/ORC International poll released Monday, 43 percent 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 percent.
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Let’s hope that this is the last time someone will feel compelled to pay for a poll that asks the public what it feels about Romney—a question that is about as pointless and irrelevant as poll questions can get at this moment in time.
After Obama beat John McCain in 2008, they had a meeting at Obama’s transition headquarters in Chicago, issuing 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. That didn’t turn out so well—at least the “work together” part of their statement. Perhaps the statement should have said “work against each other” on those issues.
According to the press reports, Romney left the White House after just over an hour. Earlier in the day, Romney met his former running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan—the same running mate who not only failed to deliver his home state of Wisconsin for Romney but who also lost to Obama in his hometown of Janesville, Wis. There were no reports of fisticuffs at that meeting either.