Whether or not you believe the polls that continue show Barack Obama slowly but surely building a sizable lead over Mitt Romney (the most dramatic recent one probably being the 50/44 margin for the incumbent in the latest Gallup tracking poll, one of the few Republicans have touted as accurate in the past), there’s undeniably a different mood in the two campaigns that’s most notable when they are operating in the same place. RCP’s Erin McPike, who has no reason whatsoever to favor Obama, noticed it repeatedly in her latest dispatch from Ohio:

The opponents’ events were a study in contrasts of not just content but tone and goals.

For months, those inside the Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee have scoffed when the Obama camp touted its bigger and more sophisticated field team, saying it’s just lipstick on a pig, unable to compensate for the electorate’s great economic pain. Nevertheless, the logistical advantage the president’s team has built — which is apparently evident in a recent series of non-partisan state polls showing him with a sizable lead — was on full display when both candidates rallied their supporters at multiple events in Ohio throughout the day.

Obama, she notes, not only has a well-honed stump speech full of applause lines, but is the headliner at rallies that relentlessly pound away at the urgency of voting as early as is possible. It’s clear his campaign wants to “bank” as many votes as it can when the campaign dynamics are favorable, while minimizing its task (not to mention the risks of polling-place problems) on November 6.

Romney, on the other hand, is “still honing his message,” and doesn’t seem to have his surrogates on the same page.

Now it’s always possible, of course, that Romney will finally settle on some thematics during the debates, and if any one line or set of line seems to go well, that’s what we’ll hear all over the country. If he decides to accuse Obama of being a spy for China, he certainly has the resources to make sure every single Ohioan hears about that before November 6. But it’s impossible at this late date not to wonder how this supposed organizational genius with the most excited party base since 1860 and freshly enabled by the courts to pour money into his campaign with a reckless abandon never seen before–wound up where he is today, stumbling around Ohio in search of a message while his supporters focus feverishly on denying the evidence he’s got a problem.

Yeah, if Mitt loses the post-mortems are going to be pretty amusing. And I’ll bet the man never voluntarily sets foot in Ohio as long as he lives.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.