President Obama today heaped praise on his defeated rival, GOP nominee Mitt Romney, saying the former governor’s record and ideas “could be very helpful” in shaping policy over the next four years
“My hope is, before the end of the year… that we have a chance to sit down and talk,” Obama told reporters in his first post-election press conference.
But even as Obama extended something of an olive branch – which some skeptics saw as disingenuous – Romney was reportedly accusing the president of doling out “gifts” to minority voters to curry their support for a second term.
“The President’s campaign focused on giving targeted groups a big gift-so he made a big effort on small things,” Romney told donors on a conference call, first reported by Maeve Reston of the L.A. Times. “Those small things, by the way, add up to trillions of dollars.”
Romney claimed Obama had been “very generous” to blacks, Hispanics and younger voters, according to the Times, insisting that the policy decisions had been a decisive factor in high turnout that tipped the scale against him.
“I am very sorry that we didn’t win. I know that you expected to win,” Romney reportedly said. “We expected to win…. It was very close, but close doesn’t count in this business.”
Several participants on the call confirmed to ABC News the account and quotes presented by the L.A. Times.
Senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod responded to the “gifts” remark by accusing Romney of “still looking at America through that 47 percent prism.”
“Mitt tells donors the takers did him in,” Axelrod wrote on Twitter, referencing Romney’s remarks earlier this year disparaging 47 percent of Americans as self-perceived “victims” and government dependents.
The back and forth by suggested some lingering ill-feeling on both sides after what was a bruising – often personal – campaign.
On election night after both men spoke briefly by phone, Obama told his supporters that he extended an invitation to meet with Romney to demonstrate a spirit of bipartisanship. But today he conceded he does not know whether Romney is willing to play along.
“He presented some ideas during the course of the campaign that I actually agree with. And so it’d be interesting to talk to him about something like that,” Obama said. “There may be ideas that he has with respect to jobs and growth that can help middle-class families that I want to hear.”
But Obama added, “I’m not either prejudging what he’s interested in doing, nor am I suggesting I’ve got some specific assignment. But what I want to do is to is to get ideas from him and see if there are some ways that we can potentially work together.”