Mitt Romney was spotted picking up a snack in a McDonald’s restaurant just ahead of a lunch in the White House with Barack Obama on Thursday.
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney meeting has already inspired dozens of internet memes speculating on what exactly went on.
The former governor of Massachusetts was photographed apparently buying a McFlurry milkshake, and the picture was then uploaded to social news website Reddit.
While it may seem strange to see the ultra-healthy 65-year-old chowing down on fast food, the Romney family has long had a strong connection to the McDonald’s franchise.
Mitt Romney’s father George, a businessman who was governor of Michigan, was given a card by McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc entitling him to eat at any of the chain’s restaurants for free for his whole life.
As well as the picture of Mitt Romney in McDonald’s, web users have clearly been amused by a photo of the losing Republican presidential candidate shaking hands with Barack Obama in the Oval Office, as Buzzfeed notes.
Photoshopped versions of the image have spread around the net, with some offering witty guesses about the strained conversation the two men might be enjoying, while others drew attention to the awkward presence of a White House staffer half-hidden behind a door in the background of the picture.
The pair met for lunch at the White House on Thursday, sitting down with an eye on overlapping interests rather than the sharp differences that defined their presidential contest.
In their first meeting since the election, Barack Obama and the Republican nominee met in the White House’s private dining room, fulfilling a promise Obama made in his victory speech the night of November 6.
Mitt Romney congratulated the president for the success of his campaign and wished him well over the coming four years, according to a description of the meeting from the White House.
“The focus of their discussion was on America’s leadership in the world and the importance of maintaining that leadership position in the future,” according to the description.
“They pledged to stay in touch, particularly if opportunities to work together on shared interests arise in the future.”
While they talked politics, the former foes munched on white turkey chili and Southwestern grilled chicken salad.
Mitt Romney arrived at the White House early Thursday afternoon in a black SUV. He stepped out of the passenger side and walked into the West Wing alone.
White House spokesman Jay Carney had earlier said Barack Obama had no specific agenda for the meeting, but he said the president wanted to discuss Mitt Romney’s ideas for making government more efficient. Barack Obama has proposed merging some functions of government related to business and has asked Congress for authority to undertake some executive branch reorganization.
“The president noted that Gov. Romney did a terrific job running the Olympics and that that skills set lends itself to ideas that could make the federal government work better, which is a passion of the president’s,” Jay Carney said.
Barack Obama aides said they reached out to Mitt Romney’s team shortly before Thanksgiving to start working on a date for the meeting. The two men were meeting alone in the White House’s private dining room, with no press coverage expected.
For Mitt Romney, it was a day of closure after a hard-fought campaign.
Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who was his vice presidential running mate, met earlier in the day to talk about the pending fiscal cliff negotiations and other economic challenges facing Washington, a Ryan aide said. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the aide was not authorized to discuss the private discussions.
On a personal level, the pair discussed their families and talked about the harried 12 weeks of the general election campaign.
“I remain grateful to Gov. Romney for the honor of joining his ticket this fall, and I cherish our friendship,” Paul Ryan said in a statement after their meeting.
“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.”
Much of that debate centers on expiring tax cuts first enacted in the George W. Bush administration. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney differed sharply during the campaign over what to do with the cuts, with the Republican pushing for them to be extended for all income earners and the president running on a pledge to let the cuts expire for families making more than $250,000 a year.
The White House sees Barack Obama’s victory as a signal that Americans support his tax proposals.
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s sit-down Thursday was expected to be their most extensive private meeting to date. The two men had only a handful of brief exchanges before the 2012 election.
Even after their political fates became intertwined, their interactions were largely confined to the three presidential debates.
Mitt Romney has virtually disappeared from politics following his election loss. He’s spent the past three weeks largely in seclusion at his family’s Southern California home. He has made no public appearances, drawing media attention only after being photographed at Disneyland in addition to stops at the movies and the gym with his wife, Ann.
Barack Obama aides reached out to Mitt Romney shortly before Thanksgiving to start working on a date for the meeting.
“It was a gracious invitation from the president, which Mitt Romney was glad to accept,” a top Mitt Romney aide said.
The timing of Barack Obama’s meeting appears strategic, coming in the same week that he launched an aggressive campaign aimed at forcing Congress to accept his proposals to avert the fiscal cliff, a series of automatic tax increases and spending cuts that threaten to send the U.S. economy spiraling into a second recession.
The Congressional Budget Office has predicted that if the fiscal cliff is not avoided, the U.S. unemployment rate could rise to 9.1% by the end of next year, compared to 7.9% now.
Barack Obama is proposing that Congress end tax cuts for families making more than $250,000 a year, but Republicans are opposed to the idea.
While in Washington, Mitt Romney will meet with his former running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who is working on the Republican side of negotiations.
Mitt Romney has kept a low profile since his defeat, deliberately avoiding the political spotlight while many in the party distanced themselves from him in the days and weeks after the election, especially after a conference call with donors in which he said Barack Obama won the election because of ‘gifts’ he bestowed on constituencies like Hispanics, blacks and young people.
Photographs and sightings of Mitt Romney’s post-election lifestyle reveal that he is relishing a ‘normal’ existence after the grueling pace of the campaign.
He was spotted attending the movie Twilight with his wife and dining on pizza afterward. He was also photographed at Disneyland on roller coasters with his sons and grandchildren.
A motorist snapped a photo of Romney pumping gas recently and the former Massachusetts governor posted of photo of himself and Ann enjoying Thanksgiving together. Appearing scruffy and unkempt in a blue T-shirt, Mitt Romney had his arms wrapped around Ann in their kitchen as she appeared to be cooking.
But it was revealed on Wednesday that Mitt Romney might soon be returning to work in the private sector.
Mitt Romney’s former aides confirmed to the Associated Press that he is expected to move into an office at the Boston-area venture capital firm Solamere Capital, which was co-founded by his eldest son, Tagg, and Spencer Zwick, who served as his campaign’s national finance chairman.
He will not be working for Solamere, the Washington Post reports, but simply leasing an office space there.