DENVER - Bitter rivals House Speaker Michael Madigan and Gov. Rod Blagojevich hugged this morning before hundreds of cheering delegates after being egged on by a passionate plea from U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
"We don't have a lot of time to unite the Democratic party," Jackson said in unscripted remarks at the delegation's morning breakfast. "That which historically divides us cannot divide us if we want Barack Obama to be president of the United States. I'm not going to be satisfied until I see Rod Blagojevich give Michael Madigan a hug."
The prodding culminated a speech by Jackson in which he singled out his own rivals for a hug and offered an olive branch of unity going into the presidential election.
Jackson hugged U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, who has just recovered from cancer surgery.
The South Side congressman was then embraced by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, which brought him to tears at the podium in Denver. Jackson has frequently been mentioned as a potential challenger to Daley's reign over Chicago.
"I have been trying to get to know Mayor Daley for 14 years. I only see Mayor Daley at the conventions. And I only talk to him through the press," Jackson said. "I have been trying to get to know him, but that is what conventions are about."
But it was the hug between Madigan and Blagojevich that stole the show. Illinois delegates were on pins and needles upon the governor's arrival at the convention in Denver Tuesday.
Madigan and Daley had been preaching the call for unity so as not to embarrass Obama during his nomination.
Blagojevich addressed the delegates this morning before Jackson. He opened by describing how he and Madigan talked the day before at Daley's big reception. The two talked about sports and their families, he said.
"That is a good thing," he told delegates about the talk.
Madigan and Blagojevich have been at odds for years, trading barbs in the media and almost never talking personally. The division has led to record legislative gridlock in Springfield.
Blagojevich showed no signs today of backing off his push to get Madigan to support his public works and health care expansion plans. But he didn't personally attack Madigan as he has in the past.
Following the rousing speech by Jackson, Madigan declined to comment.
Senate President Emil Jones Jr. seemed skeptical.
"It all remains to be seen, you know," said the Blagojevich ally. "So I don't know whether it is genuine or not."
Following the speech, Jackson said his remarks about unity were unscripted and he didn't plan the hugging show.
"I had a moment," he said.
Blagojevich called his hug with Madigan genuine and said he hoped it lasted back in Illinois.