WASHINGTON — Bitter campaign foes just weeks ago, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney met for lunch at the White House on Thursday, discussing America's leadership in the world and pledging to stay in touch after a bitter presidential contest.
In their first meeting since the election, Obama and the Republican nominee shook hands in the Oval Office and had an hourlong lunch in the White House's private dining room, fulfilling a promise Obama made in his victory speech the night of Nov. 6.
The White House said Romney congratulated the president for his successful campaign and wished him well in the coming four years.
Over a lunch of white turkey chili and Southwestern grilled chicken salad, the conversation focused on America's leadership in the world and the importance of maintaining that leadership position.
White House officials said the two men pledged to stay in touch, particularly if opportunities to work together on shared interests arise in the future.
Before the lunch, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama had no specific agenda for the meeting, but he said the president wanted 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.
Obama aides said they reached out to Romney's team shortly before Thanksgiving to start working on a date for the meeting.
For Romney, it was a day of closure after a hard-fought campaign.
Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who was his vice presidential running mate, met earlier in the day to talk about the pending fiscal cliff negotiations and other economic challenges facing Washington, a Ryan aide said.
On a personal level, the pair discussed their families and talked about the harried campaign.