“The president acknowledged he needed to do better,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporter after the meeting, though he stopped short of saying Obama offered an apology.

But Gibbs said the president did plan to increase “all kinds” of communication with the GOP, include informal phone calls and other unpublicized interactions.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, addressing reporters after returning from the White House to Capitol Hill, described the long-awaited session as a “nice meeting” and said “I think spending more time will help us … find common ground.”

Senate Republicans leaders told their members at an afternoon caucus meeting that the White House gathering went well, in part because Democrats didn’t appear “arrogant,” officials said.

Still, GOP leaders – led by Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia— held firm on their previous vow to extend tax breaks permanently for all income groups – not just families earning less than $250,000, as Obama and other Democrats advocate.

This is symbolic of the difference between Republicans and Democrats at least since 1994: Republicans fight aggressively for their agenda, damn the torpedoes, while Democrats run from theirs, even when they have popular opinion on their side.