US President Barack Obama sought to draw a line under the question of whether Americans are better off than they were four years ago, asserting the answer is "absolutely."
Obama's campaign has stumbled when faced with the classic US election question, trying to balance the need to convey progress with the knowledge that many are still suffering from the after-effects of the Great Recession.
"We are absolutely better off than we were when I was sworn in and we were losing 800,000 jobs in a month," he told media in the battleground state of Virginia as he prepared for his big convention speech in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Republicans have asked the question relentlessly since the weekend when it elicited a dizzying array of responses from Obama's allies, first "no" then "sort of" and finally "absolutely."
With fewer than nine weeks to go until Americans go to the polls, the president is still struggling to break the deadlock with Republican rival Mitt Romney.
Obama also told NBC 12 in Richmond, Virginia that he somewhat regretted telling business leaders "you didn't build that."
The line, which tried to convey the idea that even successful businesses depend on roads and other infrastructure built by government and others, was pounced on by Republicans as evidence that Obama does not get the free market.
"Obviously, I have regrets for my syntax," the president said. "But not for the point, because everyone who was there watching knows exactly what I was saying."