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Mitt Romney to lunch with President Obama in White House. Why? (+video)

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“He presented some ideas during the campaign that I actually agree with,” said Obama in his postelection press conference.

It behooves Obama to be gracious, of course. With large margins of Americans telling pollsters they want Democrats and Republicans to work together, the lunch offer is a big flashing light of a signal that Obama intends to do just that. Or look like he’s doing that, at least. It could set a tone of civil discourse that the administration may want to continue to project in the months ahead.

For Romney the lunch must now loom as a necessary but emotionally difficult task. Only weeks ago he thought the Oval Office would be his workspace. Now it’s just an exclusive cafe that’s deigned to admit him for a visit. It would be churlish for him to turn down the offer – good losing is part of sportsmanship, as anyone who ran the Olympics must know. But he would not be human if he didn’t look around and think how his own family portraits would have looked on that desk.

By accepting Obama’s offer Romney, too, shows that he understands Americans want their politicians to work together. The running-for-office part of his own career may be over, but he bolsters the Republican brand by appearing, which could help in “fiscal cliff” negotiations. And Romney needs to rebuild his status within the GOP, as well as within the country – lots of Republicans have complained about his campaign, and his postelection analysis that Obama won by giving people “gifts.”

A photo of the two 2012 opponents deep in conversation over fennel and endive salad could provide a better coda for Romney’s losing effort, perhaps counteracting some of the bitterness evident in the “gift” remark.

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