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Top Barack Obama, Mitt Romney advisers rehash campaign before Harvard audience

Key advisers to President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney have been meeting with Harvard University students today before a forum tonight where they will talk publicly about the recently completed general election campaign.

David Axelrod and Jim Messina, the top figures in Obama’s winning reelection campaign, and Stuart Stevens and Eric Fehrnstrom, two senior advisers in Romney’s losing campaign, were set to speak for about 90 minutes in a forum moderated by David Gregory, host of the NBC News program “Meet the Press.”

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The forum, being held at the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics, is titled, “War Stories: Inside Campaign 2012.”

The IOP has held such a forum every four years since 1972. During the day, sessions are open to students and reporters, but they cannot be reported about until a formal transcript is released - often months later.

The evening forum has traditionally been open for immediate news coverage.

In one of the sessions after the 2000 election, Bush adviser Karl Rove admitted that the staff for Democratic candidate Al Gore did a better job during the campaign generating local news coverage.

“We have a special office in the White House who is supposed to duplicate the Gore campaign’s local media coverage,” Rove said at the time.

The conversations came the same day Romney traveled to the White House for a private lunch with Obama in the president’s private dining room, just steps from the Oval Office. Romney left after more than an hourlong meeting, and the president’s staff later released a photo of the two men shaking hands in the Oval Office.

The two dined on turkey chili - the same meal Romney served up at his June 2, 2011, campaign kickoff - and Southwestern grilled chicken salad.

“Governor Romney congratulated the president for the success of his campaign and wished him well over the coming four years,” the White House statement said. “The focus of their discussion was on America’s leadership in the world and the importance of maintaining that leadership position in the future. They pledged to stay in touch, particularly if opportunities to work together on shared interests arise in the future.”

The forum also came the day after Stevens offered his own take on the election in an op-ed column for The Washington Post.

“I appreciate that Mitt Romney was never a favorite of D.C.’s green-room crowd or, frankly, of many politicians,” Stevens wrote. “That’s why, a year ago, so few of those people thought that he would win the Republican nomination. But that was indicative not of any failing of Romney’s but of how out of touch so many were in Washington and in the professional political class. Nobody liked Romney except voters. What began in a small field in New Hampshire grew into a national movement. It wasn’t our campaign, it was Romney. He bested the competition in debates, and though he was behind almost every candidate in the GOP primary at one time or the other, he won the nomination and came very close to winning the presidency.”

Glen Johnson can be reached at johnson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
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