At times, the candidates' efforts to flesh out their plans haven't done them much good.
Obama's "to do" list serves to highlight his inability to get congressional action on his initiatives.
Romney's emphasis on his 59-point jobs plan got dismissive treatment from a prominent ally.
Outgoing Marriott CEO Bill Marriott, during a March interview with The Associated Press, offered some advice to the candidate who was named after the hotel executive's father, J. Willard Marriott:
"His message is too complicated," Marriott said of Willard Mitt Romney. "He says: I have a 59-point economic policy. My response: People aren't going to listen to 59 points. ... You really need to simplify your message and repeat it, repeat it, repeat it and don't wander off."
In some cases, the candidates' rhetoric targeting one another has contributed to the fog swirling around voters.
Both sides expend considerable time and money running down the opposition for having no new ideas — or no good ones.
"He's got no new answers," Romney says of Obama.
Republicans may have a plan to win the election, counters Obama, but "it's not a plan to create jobs. It sure as heck is not a plan to grow our economy. It's not a plan to revive our middle class."
The candidates also are eager to fill in the blanks in each other's policy proposals by sketching worst-case scenarios.
The Obama campaign's latest talking point: Romney has a $5 trillion tax cut plan for millionaires and billionaires. He hasn't explained how he'd pay for it, "so either he'll blow up the deficit or he'll raise taxes on families."
Romney told the NAACP this week: Obama says he'll fix the economy "but he has not. He cannot. He will not."
"If I am president, job one for me will be creating jobs," Romney said. "I have no hidden agenda."
Whether the candidates' agendas are missing, muddled or hidden, neither has nailed "the vision thing" that George H.W. Bush once famously talked about.
AP deputy director of polling Jennifer Agiesta in Washington contributed to this report.
Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/nbenac
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.