CHARLOTTE -- Speaking to members of Iowa's influential delegation to the Democratic convention on Wednesday, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley took a shot at several Republican governors while laying out a broad vision for the party that some suspect he hopes to one day lead.

The delegation meeting was the latest of several O'Malley has attended this week -- he has also appeared before delegates from Ohio and Texas, for instance. But given Iowa's first-in-the-nation role in the presidential primary season, his visit here led to inevitable talk of his own political ambitions in 2016.


O'Malley, who addressed the full convention on Tuesday, will travel to Iowa later this month to speak at an event sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin that draws hundreds of party faithful.

"You and I are Democrats because we believe in an America that is always growing and evolving," the governor told the state's delegates. "We do not subscribe to the theory of these newly elected tea party Republican governors -- or their newly elected Republican governor retreads -- who run on the promise of restoring our economy and then, when they get into office, they govern by rolling back individual freedoms."

The retread line, a reference to Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad, drew groans from the delegation. Branstad, a Republican, served as the state's governor from 1983 to 1999 and was then elected in 2010.

O'Malley, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, has received mixed reviews from his convention address on Tuesday, which was overshadowed first lady Michelle Obama's speech. O'Malley dodged questions about his future, even though they continue to crop at all of his events.

"The only thing I'm really giving consideration to right now is being as effective of a surrogate as I can be for President Obama and for Democratic governors," O'Malley said, adding that Harkin invited him to the event this month.

But O'Malley also repeatedly noted his familiarity with the state, pointing out that he had visited all of its counties when he worked for Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign.

"I like Iowa," he said. "I know Iowa."

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner also spoke to the delegation Wednesday.

"He stacks up in that we are eager to learn more about him," Peggy Whitworth, a longtime Democratic activist in Iowa, said of O'Malley. "We know some things; we don't know a lot."

Iowan Andy Bock said he thought O'Malley "presented very well," perhaps better in Wednesday's smaller setting than he did on stage Tuesday. "I do think that as a person in the audience, it felt more like a lot of it was important for the wider national audience," he said of O'Malley's speech Tuesday.