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Saturday February 6th, 2016 6:51AM

Obama, Romney to meet at White House Thursday

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama will host his former political rival Mitt Romney for a private lunch at the White House Thursday, their first meeting since the election.

Obama promised in his victory speech earlier this month to engage with Romney following their bitter campaign and consider the Republican's ideas.

"In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Gov. Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward," Obama said at the time.

Obama aides said they reached out to Romney's team shortly before Thanksgiving to start working on a date for the meeting. The two men will meet in the White House's private dining room, with no press coverage expected.

While in Washington, Romney will also meet with his former running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, according to a Romney campaign aide. Ryan is back on Capitol Hill, where he's involved in negotiations to avert a series of automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts that have come to be known as the "fiscal cliff."

Much of that debate centers on expiring tax cuts first passed by George W. Bush. Obama and 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 Obama's victory as a signal that Americans support his tax proposals.

Obama and Romney's sit-down Thursday will likely be their most extensive private meeting ever. 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.
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