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CHARLOTTE, NC (USA TODAY)-- Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley sought to clarify what he meant when he flatly declared "no" on Sunday when asked if Americans are better off than they were four years ago.

"I found myself victim to a word splice," O'Malley told USA TODAY and Gannett reporters during a Newsmaker session, as the Democratic National Convention gets underway.

O'Malley said his larger message about the direction President Obama is taking the nation got lost when he said "no" to the "Are we better off question?" on CBS. Republicans immediately pounced yesterday, noting that Obama's Democratic surrogates -- including adviser David Plouffe -- sidestepped the question on the Sunday morning talk shows.

"We are creating jobs, not losing jobs. We are becoming stronger," O'Malley told USA TODAY. "This is hard work. None of us would disagree with the fact that we have not yet recovered from the Bush recession. ... Clearly, we're headed in the right direction."

Democrats meet Tuesday through Thursday for their party's official business: formally nominating Obama and Vice President Biden to a second term. The convention kicks off tomorrow with remarks from first lady Michelle Obama and a keynote address from San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.

O'Malley said the Democratic speakers will "articulate the message of forward progress."

The Maryland governor, first elected in 2007, is juggling several roles this week. He leads the Democratic Governors Association, speaks to Democratic delegates, and will even play a couple of gigs this week with his Celtic rock band, O'Malley's March.

Oh, and there's the matter of O'Malley being mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2016.

Asked if he'd like to come back in 2016 and accept his party's nomination for the White House, O'Malley demurred. "I'm focused on the president's election," he said.

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