Romney early for lunch, but not bearing a gift

Mitt Romney arrived at the White House a bit early for his lunch with President Barack Obama, but he wasn’t seen toting any gifts for the president on his way into the building.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Some photographers were at the West Wing when Romney arrived at 12:29 p.m. He was dropped off from a black SUV.

He was empty-handed and wearing a grey suit as he smiled and walked into the facility. The former presidential candidate didn’t speak with the media.

On Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama didn’t have an agenda for the meeting, but he wanted to discuss with Romney ideas about making government more efficient.

The two men dined privately, without their aides in the room. They ate turkey chili and Southwestern chicken salad.

The White House said the two men discussed America’s leadership role in global politics, and Romney offered his congratulations to the president.

The former Massachusetts governor left after about one hour.

Obama defeated Romney in a bitterly contested presidential election, and Romney later told campaign donors that Obama used “gifts” to women, students, and minorities to secure his win.

Romney was heavily criticized by Republicans for using the word “gifts” in characterizing Obama’s social and legislative policies.

Since then, President Obama reached out to Romney for a lunch meeting, which set off a stream of online speculation.

Twitter was having a field day, as users speculated about the lunch time conversation.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter joked on her Twitter account, “Obama invited Romney for lunch. He ran out of voters for free lunches.”

ABC reporter Jake Tapper also commented that the two foes were debating the merits of decaf coffee.

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Politico spoke with one former defeated presidential candidate and an adviser for another about the protocol for such a meeting.

Walter Mondale and a former adviser for John Kerry said the candidates never had sit-down lunches with Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Obama did have a public meeting in 2008 with John McCain that included a photo op and a joint statement.

The meeting has raised eyebrows because it comes as President Obama and Republicans are engaged in a fierce public battle over the fiscal cliff, a series of steep tax hikes and spending cuts set to start in January.

The White House press office said there was “some chance” that a photograph would be released after the private lunch.

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