Canton, Ohio (CNN) - At a crowded rally inside a Canton union hall Wednesday, a fired-up Gov. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio) said his Republican challenger John Kasich is flailing wildly as his once solid lead in the governor's race has collapsed.
Kasich has taken a particularly harsh tone toward Democrats during a three-day statewide bus tour with other members of the GOP ticket, accusing unnamed opponents of attacking him with "negative, lying smearing stuff" and plotting to steal the election.
In speech after speech along the bus tour's route, Kasich, a former congressman, has trained most of his fire on President Obama and the national party, rarely mentioning Strickland by name.
"They are going to use the policies of fear, every left-wing organizer in this country, to come in here and scare our people and try to drag people away from the polls," Kasich said in Westerville on Monday.
"They don't want you to vote. They are going to tell a lot of lies."
Speaking to CNN after the rally, a wide-eyed Strickland laughed at Kasich's claims.
"I don't think he knows what to do right now, and that is being demonstrated in the way he is talking, and the outrageous charges he has made," Strickland said of Kasich. "I think he sees victory slipping through his fingers. He assumed it was over, and it's not over."
Kasich held a lead in the race for much of the summer, but most recent polling shows the race a toss-up, offering a glimmer of hope for Democrats in one of the most prized political states in the nation.
President Obama, Vice President Biden and former President Bill Clinton are coming to Ohio to campaign for Strickland and other Democratic candidates this weekend.
Strickland, who has made a practice of speaking to reporters at length, said his opponent has become "afraid" of reporters in the closing days of the campaign.
Kasich avoided members of the press on Monday, the first day of the bus tour, when he was quickly whisked away from rallies and into a waiting van, but he has granted a handful of interviews to reporters since.
"He has a lot of reckless views, but he refuses to really let his ideas be scrutinized by the local media," Strickland said. "How absurd is it for a candidate to say, 'I am going to go on a bus tour,' and then refuse to talk to people while he's on a bus tour?"
Kasich spokesman Scott Milburn fired back at the governor, blaming him for the loss of 415,000 jobs in Ohio since taking office in 2007.
"Instead of accepting responsibility for that and offering even a single new idea for getting Ohio back on track, all he can do, from the beginning of this campaign to its closing hours, is try to distract, distort and dissemble," Milburn told CNN in an email.
The high-stakes campaign for the governorship is a much tighter race than the Senate battle between Republican Rob Portman and his underfunded Democratic opponent Lee Fisher. Portman is holding onto a double-digit lead in most recent surveys.
Though Strickland is supporting Fisher, his own Lieutenant Governor, he told CNN earlier in the week that the governor's race is closer because Portman is a stronger candidate than Kasich, whom he described as "outside the mainstream."
"[Fisher's] opponent is not as reckless and extreme as my opponent," he said of Portman, a former Ohio Congressman and senior Bush administration official. "Ohio tends to embrace the middle. Ohioans traditionally have shunned extremes to the right or the left. Quite frankly, I have an easier candidate to run against than Lee Fisher does."