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Mitt Romney arrives at White House for lunch

Washington:  Defeated Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney arrived at the White House on Thursday for a private lunch with the man who dashed his political dreams, President Barack Obama.

Romney drove up to the side entrance of the West Wing in the passenger seat of a large black Lincoln car and -- now stripped of his Secret Service detail -- opened the door himself before walking into the building.

The rivals were to meet in Obama's private dining room off the Oval Office, in their first meeting since the election on November 6, which capped a bitter campaign filled with personal attacks.

The encounter will likely be a testing personal moment for the former Massachusetts governor, who was convinced even on election day that he would be the 45th US president, but was outwitted by Obama's political machine.

Neither Romney nor Obama appeared to have any warmth or even great respect for one another, in a campaign which flared into open dislike during their contentious three presidential debates last month.

"Elections are serious business, and they tend to represent a clash of ideas, and they're hard-fought and certainly no different this time than it has been in every election," White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Wednesday.

The president has in the past appeared magnanimous to former foes, notably when he asked Hillary Clinton -- whom he defeated in a Democratic primary -- to join his "team of rivals" first-term cabinet as secretary of state.

It is unclear whether the meeting is just for appearances' sake as he seeks to heal political wounds of a divisive election or if he has any specific task in mind for Romney and, if he did, whether the Republican would accept.

Obama said in his first post-election press conference earlier this month that he hoped to work with Romney on some issues.

"There are certain aspects of Governor Romney's record and his ideas that I think could be very helpful," Obama said on November 14, adding that Romney had done a "terrific job" running the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002.

"He presented some ideas during the course of the campaign that I actually agree with. So it would be interesting to talk to him about something like that," he said.

"There may be ideas that he has with respect to jobs and growth that can help middle-class families that I want to hear."

"I'm not either prejudging what he's interested in doing, nor am I suggesting I've got some specific assignment."

Romney, however, was less conciliatory as he digested the fierce disappointment of losing the presidential election on November 6.

He accused Obama of following the "old playbook" by bestowing favors on key Democratic constituencies in exchange for their support.
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