Perhaps it’s reading between the lines of their private lunch Thursday at the White House, but President Obama and his vanquished Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, will probably never consider each other friends.
In their first meeting since Mr. Obama won the hotly contested election on Nov. 6, Mr. Romney arrived at the White House in a dark SUV at 12:29 p.m. — one minute early. Without commenting, he darted through a heavily guarded door of the West Wing that was far from reporters and photographers. He left the same way a little more than an hour later.
The former foes chatted over a lunch of white turkey chili and Southwestern grilled chicken salad in the president’s private dining room, just a few steps from the Oval Office that Mr. Romney tried for six years to capture. Outside, construction workers on Pennsylvania Avenue were busy building the reviewing stands for the parade for Mr. Obama’s second inauguration.
Neither Mr. Obama, who extended the invitation, nor Mr. Romney spoke to reporters afterward. The White House later released a brief description of their meeting, saying Mr. Romney “congratulated the president for the success of his campaign and wished him well over the coming four years.”
“The focus of their discussion was on America’s leadership in the world and the importance of maintaining that leadership position in the future,” the statement said. “They pledged to stay in touch, particularly if opportunities to work together on shared interests arise in the future.”
The statement about their meeting was all of 97 words, and 12 of those words were devoted to the menu.
While the two men were dining, just a few yards away, White House press secretary Jay Carney defended the decision to keep the luncheon private. He also rejected a suggestion that Mr. Obama might offer Mr. Romney a job in the administration.
“This was a conversation the president wanted to have with Gov. Romney,” Mr. Carney said. “There was not an agenda that involved that kind of proposal. The president is very interested in his ideas. It’s a private lunch, and we’re going to leave it at that.”
Mr. Romney also visited in Washington on Thursday with his former running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who is part of the House Republican team that is locked in increasingly contentious negotiations with Mr. Obama about avoiding the “fiscal cliff” of tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect in January. Mr. Ryan said he remains grateful to Mr. Romney.
“I’m proud of the principles and ideas we advanced during the campaign and the commitment we share to expanding opportunity and promoting economic security for American families,” Mr. Ryan said in a statement.
Meetings between victor and vanquished in presidential politics are rarely shows of bipartisan good feelings.
President Ronald Reagan and Democratic challenger Walter Mondale never spoke again after a postelection phone call in 1984. Nor did President George W. Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, speak after Mr. Kerry’s concession call in 2004.
Former Vice President Al Gore, after losing the 2000 election to Mr. Bush, didn’t make it back to the White House as a visitor until 2007, as part of a reception honoring Nobel Peace Prize winners. (Mr. Gore shared a prize for his work calling attention to climate change.)
Mr. Obama did meet in Chicago with Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, two weeks after defeating Mr. McCain in 2008. But their relationship has grown steadily more acrimonious in the past four years.
Mr. McCain said in June that the president hadn’t made a good-faith effort to reach out to him after the 2008 election.
“Let’s get real here,” he told The Hill newspaper. “There was never any outreach from President Obama or anyone in his administration to me.”
• Researcher John Sopko contributed to this article.