No sour grapes or crow will be served at today's White House lunch when President Obama meets with Mitt Romney for the first time since the election. The president and his former opponent are likely to discuss a topic they both care deeply about: the U.S. economy, including the massive spending cuts and tax hikes that come due Jan. 1 if no compromise is found to avoid the looming fiscal cliff.
"It's not inconceivable that [the president] could say to the Governor today, 'I need your help. I need you to bring the members of your party that you can over to some sort of compromise,'" says Rob Cox, U.S. Editor of Reuters Breakingviews.
Whether Romney will agree to help (and if he still has influence in the Republican party) is not clear. Since the election some leading Republicans including NJ Governor Chris Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have criticized Romney for comments he made crediting the president's win -- specifically the comment that Obama gave "extraordinary financial gifts" to voters.
The president's lunch with Romney fulfills a pledge the president made in his victory speech election. Obama said he would sit down with Governor Romney "to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward."
A week later after the election, President Obama said Romney "presented some ideas during the course of the campaign that I actually agree with." He gave no specifics but suggested they could talk about smart, nonpartisan ideas that could make the government "more customer friendly" and "eliminate additional waste."
President Obama's lunch with Romney is just one of two important meetings today. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate to discuss plans to avoid the fiscal cliff.
Geithner's immediate concern is reaching an agreement to extend the Bush tax cuts for all taxpayers or those with incomes under $250,000, as the president has pushed for. Geithner also supports Warren Buffett's suggestion to raise taxes on Americans making at least $500,00 a year.
Cox says this "fiscal cliff avoidance plan" could be agreed upon before the end of the year.
"You won't have a big cliff problem but it will also still have a deadline," he notes. "If you don't do it by July 4 of next year we go back over this new cliff we've created."
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