Their relationship seemed doomed from the start. It was mostly a long-distance affair conducted in public exchanges, tempered by occasional awkward gestures of warmth but more often singed by open hostility.
It most likely ended, mercifully, on Thursday over white turkey chili and Southwestern grilled chicken salad. US President Barack Obama and the vanquished Mitt Romney ate lunch in a private dining room steps from the Oval Office, the seat of power they battled over for months.
The meeting, a decades-old tradition between former rivals, put a bow on an otherwise ugly race marked by very few attempts to pretend the candidates liked each other. Until Thursday, that is, when a smiling Romney came to the White House. He left a little more than an hour later.
The lunch date was, unsurprisingly, the winner's idea. Obama announced his intentions in his victory speech, aiming to demonstrate bipartisan inclinations.
But the president, who never expressed respect for Romney's political skills during the campaign, seemed to have trouble describing the purpose. Obama suggested the former Massachusetts governor and business executive, who ran the 2002 Olympics, could act as some sort of efficiency consultant.
The president, who once talked about building a "team of rivals" in his cabinet, was not entertaining a Romney appointment, his spokesman said.
The White House offered only the broadest description of their conversation: "The focus of their discussion was on America's leadership in the world and the importance of maintaining that leadership position in the future." The meeting ended with a vague promise "to stay in touch".