Republican Mitt Romney fell short in his White House bid but President Barack Obama had him over for lunch in an attempt to display some political harmony in the bitterly divided capital.

The two men sat down for their meal in a West Wing dining room and there were efforts to keep the visit low key.

Mr Romney was brought in through a heavily guarded side entryway and officials said only the two men would be present for the lunch. 

The lunch lasted a little more than an hour and appeared to be little more than a goodwill gesture aimed at salving wounds left open from a bitter campaign.

During the campaign President Obama accused Mr Romney of being an out-of-touch, secretive, rich elitist and Mr Romney said his opponent did not understand how to fix the US economy.

They waged their battle in campaign speeches and toughly worded TV and radio ads that cost collectively hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mr Obama is busily gearing up for his second term.

The grandstand from which he will view his inaugural parade in January is being constructed on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House.

Mr Romney, who was said to have been shocked that his campaign fell short, has few apparent immediate plans.

A week ago he was photographed visiting Disneyland in Florida with several grandchildren.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that Obama was interested in hearing some of Mr Romney's ideas and sharing campaign experiences with him.

Mr Obama said during his election victory speech that he wanted to sit down and talk to Romney.

There was no job offer for Romney in the works, he said.

It was not immediately clear whether the two men discussed the top priority facing the president and Congress.

Or the prospect of reaching a deal to avoid a year-end fiscal calamity when Bush-era tax cuts expire and a variety of budget cuts kick in.

Mr Romney had campaigned on sharply cutting US government spending, saying any program worth borrowing money from China to pay for would have to be justified.

Mr Obama has focused more on raising taxes on the wealthy.

Both Democrats and Republicans are far apart on reaching a deal with a month to go.

While Republican leaders in Washington had whole-heartedly backed Romney's candidacy, there have been no indications that he has been brought into the conversation over the so-called "fiscal cliff."