President Barack Obama is welcoming Mitt Romney to the White House on Thursday for a private lunch, their first meeting since the election. But welcome him onto his Cabinet? "No," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday. Still, "it will be a substantial lunch, if not on the plate, then in the discussion," Carney said. But voters who chose between the two men in the presidential contest just over three weeks ago won't see any of it, because the press secretary has rejected reporters' requests to open at least some of the meal to the media.
With Obama under some pressure to name a Republican to his second-term Cabinet, will the president maybe, you know, consider finding a spot for the former Massachusetts governor? "No, no," Carney said. What about inviting Romney to help with a possible reorganization of the Commerce Department? "The president does not have a specific assignment in mind for the governor," the press secretary said. Will the two politicians exchange gifts? Carney ducked the opportunity to joke about Romney's postelection claim that Obama won by plying key constituencies with "gifts." "I don't have any more details about tomorrow's lunch to provide," he said.
Obama soundly defeated Romney after a hard-fought, often bitter campaign that offered contrasting visions of taxes, spending and the role of government in boosting the economy. While polls throughout the campaign suggested a close race, Obama ultimately carried 332 electoral votes, far more than the 270 needed for re-election. Romney won 206 electoral votes.
Obama had said in his election night victory speech that he aimed to sit down with Romney "in the weeks ahead" for a conversation "about where we can work together to move this country forward." Obama reiterated that plan at a Nov. 14 press conference, saying "there are certain aspects of Gov. Romney's record and his ideas that I think could be very helpful." The president praised Romney's stewardship of the 2002 Winter Olympics and said that during the campaign he had agreed with some of Romney's ideas on jobs and growth. "So I'm not either prejudging what he's interested in doing, nor am I suggesting I've got some specific assignment. But what I want to do is to get ideas from him and see if there are some ways that we can potentially work together," Obama said.
Carney on Wednesday agreed with a reporter who suggested that the lunch had symbolic value as well. "We consistently have elections and either pass power on to a new leader of a new party or, because the voters chose, continue to invest power and authority and the office in the same party or the same individual, without violence and without the kind of anguish and disruptions that you see in so many other countries around the world and you've seen throughout history," he said.