02-19-2017  8:45 am      •     

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Mitt Romney is coming to the White House.

The defeated Republican presidential nominee will lunch with President Barack Obama on Thursday in the Private Dining Room.

The first meeting between the two men since they faced off in an often-contentious presidential election campaign appears to be a show of bipartisanship as the two men discuss how to make the federal government more efficient.

And word of the meeting raised a bit of speculation that Romney could possibly be considered for some kind of position in the administration.

The lunch also comes as a national poll out this week indicates Romney's favorable rating down from pre-election levels after he made controversial comments to donors two weeks ago.

The president first mentioned meeting with the former Massachusetts governor in his victory speech in Chicago on Election Night, saying "I also look forward to sitting down with Gov. Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward."

And two weeks ago, at his post-election news conference, Obama brought up the potential meeting again and praised Romney's management of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, saying "I do think he did a terrific job running the Olympics."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday briefly expanded on Obama's comments, saying, "The president noted that Governor Romney did a terrific job running the Olympics and that skillset lends itself to ideas that could help make the federal government work better which is a passion of the president's. As you know he has requested re-organization authority from the Congress to do just that."

But other than that, Carney shared little of what the two men may discuss, adding, "I don't have an agenda for the lunch. The president, as he said, looked forward to having this meeting with Governor Romney. It is a private lunch. Only the two men will be in the room and I am sure it will be a useful discussion."

In the Wednesday morning announcement of the get-together, the White House added that "no press coverage of the meeting" will be allowed.

Prior to his lunch with the president, Romney met with his former running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman, at a Washington hotel, a Republican official told CNN.

Romney has mostly stayed out of the spotlight since his Election Night concession remarks in Boston, where his campaign was headquartered. While Romney hasn't made any public appearances after the election, comments he made on a post-election call with top donors that Obama had won by giving "gifts" to key constituencies were immediately criticized by both Democrats and Republicans.

"What the president, president's campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote," Romney said on the call two weeks ago.

Romney, who lost to Obama by 126 electoral votes, said the president courted voters by offering policies -- some of them this election year -- that appealed to key constituencies.

"With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift," said Romney.

Those remarks caused Republicans, including several who are considered possible candidates for the 2016 GOP nomination, to put distance between themselves and their party's former standard bearer.

Discussing the lunch, a Democratic Party official who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak freely told CNN that "this is pretty magnanimous of the president, especially after Romney insulted him after the campaign to his donors."

And those comments may be a factor in the drop of Romney's favorable rating among Americans. According to a CNN/ORC International poll released Monday, 43% 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%.

News of the lunch between Obama and Romney sparked some speculation that the president could perhaps offer his one-time challenger a role in his administration, possibly at the Commerce Department, given Romney's business and corporate background.

But Carney shot down such speculation, saying "the president does not have a specific assignment in mind for the governor."

In 2008, Obama met with Sen. John McCain after defeating him in the presidential election. The pair met at Obama's transition headquarters in Chicago and issued 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.

"I think there is a tradition here and I think that it is one of the often overlooked but remarkable things about this democracy, this oldest democracy, is that we have, we consistently have elections and either pass power on to a leader of a new party or -- because the voters choose -- continue to invest power and authority in the office in the same party or 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 through out history," Carney added.

"And I think it is entirely appropriate -- and I know the president feels this way -- to continue that tradition," he added.

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