MILWAUKEE — Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) hasn't announced his 2016 presidential campaign just yet. But he sure sounds like he's getting closer to doing it.

(Scott Eells/Bloomberg)

"By the end of this year, I think we're on course to have a body of work that lays the framework of a candidacy for 2016," O'Malley told reporters on the sidelines of the National Governors Association meeting here.

Of course, there are many variables that would need to be sorted out before O'Malley decides to take the plunge or not. What will Hillary Clinton do? And if she runs, will that deter him?

Those questions will be answered in time. For now, though, we have a good sense of what an O'Malley presidential campaign would sound like. He more or less summed it up in 113 words in response to a question about 2014:

"As a country, we're going through this crisis of confidence. And great republics sometimes go through these periods. Individuals call them, what, the dark night of the soul. We're going through a time of confusion and a time of polarization and a real crisis about whether or not we are still capable as a people of accomplishing big and important things, none more important than restoring the balance to our economy so that our middle class can continue to grow and give more opportunities to each successive generation. We will get through that period — of that, I have no doubt. I don't think we are going to get through that period by 2014."

Translation: We are going through a rough period in the country that is not going to be resolved anytime soon, and so we need someone to shepherd us through it all.

O'Malley's remarks, on the sidelines of an NGA meeting that hasn't otherwise featured much news, were some of his most direct thoughts yet on 2016. And if he runs, expect to hear the "crisis of confidence" — Jimmy Carter also used it — line again, along with the we-still-have-a-ways-to-go posture.