10/15/2010 01:01 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

How This Election Looks From Notre Dame

A weekend at the bastion of Irish Catholicism in Notre Dame convinces me of one thing. Barack Obama has lost the Reagan Democrat vote, but not permanently.

Irish and Italian and Polish Americans come in their droves to Notre Dame games from all over the country. They are the bedrock of any successful presidential campaign, holding the key to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and much of the toss-up Midwest.

They used to be known as Reagan Democrats, the bedrock blue-collar voters who flocked to Reagan and have vacillated every since, landing with a thud in the Obama camp in the last election.

Joe Biden is their exemplar, a Scranton guy who embodies that blue collar Catholic ethic. Some say Obama picked him precisely for that reason.

The Notre Dame football team is their icon, the sense of scrappiness and underdog history attached to the team permeates their own lives.

Perhaps they saw the same in Obama when he ran as such an unconsidered outsider

But now the sense of profound disappointment with the president is palpable. Not anger, disappointment.

Yet, there is still enough respect and acknowledgement of what an uphill struggle Obama faced on attaining power for Obama to turn it around -- by 2012.

I think 2010 is a lost cause with them. They tell me this is a message election for Nancy Pelosi, not for Barack Obama. There is a significant difference.

The Notre Dame Irish fans see Nancy Pelosi as having wandered completely off the reservation. They are still prepared to think that Obama thinks, feels and acts like they do.

Congressman Joe Donnelly, the Democrat who represents South Bend, is running ads against Pelosi directly but not Obama.

The president still has time to turn it around for himself but his glaring fault is an inability to communicate his successes.

Why not trumpet that his much maligned government bail out and saved the auto industry in Michigan?

Why not tell folks in Indiana that Bush tax cuts never led to any extra jobs anyway and that government stimulus can actually put people back to work?

The insistence on playing on the Republican home turf and defending rather than attacking has cost Democrats dear.

What I heard at Notre Dame was a puzzlement that this president, a man they did not know all that well when he became president, has continued to be somewhat of a mystery to them.

They jury is stil out however. They will give him more time but sling at least a Republican House at him to blunt any more Pelosi tendencies.

On May 17th last year Obama spoke at Notre Dame, a highly controversial appearance that was overwhelmingly approved by the student body but opposed by the Catholic Church hierarchy.

It tuned out to be a huge success but that euphoria there about Obama has long since dissipated.

Now comes the hard work for him to convince them that he has earned their trust.