Mitt Romney resurfaces at lunch with Obama

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

The private lunch came amid Obama's tense budget negotiations with
Republicans. If the two sides can't make a deal by January 1, 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 6 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 criticized for comments he made after the election
suggesting Obama won because Democrats promised "gifts" to minority

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

"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."