Gov. Martin O'Malleymounted an aggressive defense of President Barack Obama's handling of the economy Sunday morning, pointing to 23 consecutive months of job creation and dismissing Republican attempts to blame the administration for the rising price of gasoline.

Appearing on CBS'"Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer, O'Malley got in zingers at GOP candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, as well as at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who also appeared on the show.

Remarkably, neither O'Malley nor Christie was asked about the issue of same-sex marriage — a national debate in which both men have recently played prominent roles.

Last week, O'Malley helped steer legislation legalizing same-sex marriage to passage in the General Assembly. The previous week, Christie vetoed a similar measure.

Schieffer focused all his questions on the presidential race, and both governors acted as enthusiastic surrogates — O'Malley for Obama and Christie for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

O'Malley hammered on the theme of the economy, asserting that more jobs have been created in the private sector under Obama than in eight years underPresident George W. Bush. He predicted Republican attacks on the Obama economic record would fall flat.

"They were trying to say the economy is getting worse when in fact it's getting better," O'Malley said.

Asked by Schieffer about a prediction by Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich that under his leadership, the United States could see a return of $2.50-a-gallon gas, O'Malley displayed his gift for pithy political repartee: "Newt Gingrich also has a plan to create moon colonies," the governor said.

Asked about former Sen. Rick Santorum's recent attack on Obama as a "snob" for wanting higher education to be available to all young people, O'Malley replied, "There's much that Rick Santorum says that I don't really get."

"We need to educate our children at higher and better levels," O'Malley said.

Appearing after Christie in a separate interview, O'Malley had the opportunity to get in a jab at the New Jersey governor without fear of a comeback. O'Malley noted that California, under Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, recently had its bond rating upgraded. New Jersey's, he pointed out, had recently been downgraded.

O'Malley and Christie, both suspected of harboring presidential aspirations, have been frequent critics of each other.

Michael.Dresser@baltsun.com