In contrast, the first thing Barack Obama did when he addressed a significantly bigger crowd — 9,500 — at a Dayton park Tuesday was to deliver the admonition: “Vote early. Do it now.”

That’s where the campaign is. Romney is pushing the same proposals — repeal of Obamacare, the five-point plan to jump-start the economy — but with the sense that everything looms larger and seems more consequential as the days tick down until Nov. 6. Obama, who has seen a semi-comfortable lead in Ohio shrink to something near a dead heat, just wants his supporters to get it over with.

While Romney tries to persuade, early voting has become the mantra of the Obama campaign, from the president down. On Thursday afternoon in Chicago, Obama sought to lead by example as he cast his own vote early — a presidential first. Obama used the occasion to make a pitch for early voting, leaving the impression he flew Air Force One to Chicago solely for a photo-op urging his supporters to vote early.