Campaign 2012 Comes Full Circle

PHOTO: President Barack Obama, right, and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney discuss a point during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla.
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The private meeting today at the White House between President Obama and Mitt Romney is shaping up to be one of the all-time great fly-on-the-wall moments between a president and his defeated rival.

At 12:30 p.m. today, the president and his former Republican foe will sit down to lunch in the private dining room at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. It will be the first in-person meeting between the two men since the final presidential debate in Boca Raton, Fla. on Oct. 22.

The White House has not released an agenda for the sit-down, and as ABC's Mary Bruce reports, Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama does not have a "specific ask" or assignment for Romney.

"During his news conference two weeks ago, the president said that there are aspects of Governor Romney's record and Governor Romney's ideas that he believes could be very helpful," Carney told reporters yesterday. "The president noted that Governor Romney did a terrific job running the Olympics and that skill set lends itself to ideas that could make the federal government work better, which is a passion of the president's."

Carney noted that there is a "symbolic element" to the meeting: "We consistently have elections and either pass power on to a new leader of a new party or because the voters chose — continued to invest power and authority and the office in the same party or the same individual without violence."

Meanwhile, representatives from the Obama and Romney campaigns as well as top advisers to many of the GOP primary candidates and several influential outside groups are gathering today at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government for a 2012 debrief.

On neutral ground in Cambridge, Mass. fierce rivals (think Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades and Obama campaign manager Jim Messina) will meet for the first time since the election — and many for the first time ever.

The sessions at Harvard University's Institute of Politics will include a who's who of political bold-faced names from campaign 2012, including senior campaign aides like Romney political director Rich Beeson and pollster Neil Newhouse, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter and digital director Teddy Goff, Rick Santorum adviser John Brabender, former Rick Perry campaign manager Rob Johnson and even Mark Block, who ran Herman Cain's short-lived but much-talked-about presidential bid.

Representatives from the outside groups that had so much influence — and spent so much money — on the election will also be on hand, including Bill Burton, senior strategist for the pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action; Steven Law, head of the pro-Republican group American Crossroads; and Tim Phillips, president of the conservative Americans for Prosperity.

The conference will culminate tonight with a forum, organized by Harvard's Institute of Politics, featuring Messina, Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod, Romney campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom and senior strategist Stuart Stevens. It will be live-streamed at 6 p.m.

ABC's Mary Bruce and Devin Dwyer contributed reporting.

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