Earlier this week, Newt Gingrich characterized his campaign with this not-so-comforting statement: “We certainly fly by the seat of our pants.” The former Speaker was telling the truth.

Gingrich’s campaign staff already missed a deadline to appear on the primary ballot in Missouri — a technically unimportant mistake (Missouri selects its delegates to the nominating convention via caucuses), but a symbolic error that underscores the disorganization of the campaign. Gingrich’s spokesman said the campaign missed the Missouri deadline on purpose. That hardly improves the matter: As Mitt Romney’s team pointed out, Missouri will be an important swing state in the general and to miss the deadline purposely smacks of disrespect.

Of even more importance, the Gingrich staff might miss today’s deadline to appear on the ballot in Ohio. Ohio sends 66 delegates to the convention, and a write-in campaign would be unlikely to net Gingrich as many supporters as he would gain if his name were actually on the ballot.

Gingrich supporters have grumbled about the complicated running-for-president process — and they might have a point. But, like it or not, the system is what it is — and, if Gingrich seriously wants the nomination, he has to at least take care of the basics.

Gingrich’s spokesman says the campaign is on track to meet all other deadlines, and, in general, Gingrich’s staff and other endorsers appear confident he can capitalize on his present high level of support in the polls with or without the traditional trappings of a full-scale campaign.

Gingrich himself has even touted the confusion as a kind of streamlined, stripped-down team.

Gingrich has disputed the characterization of a campaign in trouble, saying that he is only struggling by an outdated paradigm used by the political establishment.

“I find it fascinating, we have all these articles about businesses getting leaner, flattening their hierarchies… all these cutting edge ideas. And then you have a group of consultants who feel you need to be slow, cumbersome, and expensive. Well, if you were the consultants you’d feel that way too because that’s your money. We run a very decentralized campaign… and it works,” Gingrich said at a press conference Monday.

And while Gingrich admitted that his campaign “certainly fly by the seat of our pants,” he argued that allowed him to be more responsive to breaking news and new turns in the campaign trail.

That seems like a stretch — and the disorder of the Gingrich campaign is perhaps even more striking when compared with the precision of the Romney campaign, which has made organization a key component of the candidate’s campaign strategy. As I wrote earlier this week, organizational strategy alone won’t win it for Romney — but a lack of it could lose it for Gingrich.

Update: Gingrich did meet the Ohio deadline, after all. Furthermore, the purported deadline wasn’t so hard and fast as some reports made it sound. Turns out it was just a “recommended deadline.” ABC’s Elizabeth Hartfield reports:

The suggested filing deadline to appear on the ballot in the Ohio primary was 4 p.m. today, and earlier this week there was questioning as to whether Newt Gingrich would be able to file the necessary signatures  to qualify for the ballot by this afternoon’s deadline.

However, after all the speculation, Newt Gingrich was one of three Republican presidential candidates to adhere to today’s suggested deadline in Ohio. Rick Perry and Mitt Romney also filed today in Ohio. Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum have not yet filed with the Ohio of Secretary of State. …

But the Ohio situation is different.  Today’s filing deadline was only a recommended deadline for presidential candidates. Ohio’s presidential primary is currently scheduled for June 12, and the actual filing deadline for presidential candidates is March 14.  Today’s filing deadline in Ohio applies only to individuals hoping to run in state, local and U.S. Senate races.