SOUTH BEND -  Forecasts of red and blue waves in politics are about as precise as winter warnings of where lake effect snow will hit. Shifting winds off Lake Michigan determine whether South Bend is buried in white or accumulation dwindles a few miles west. Political winds shift as well.

Political forecasts early this year were for a big red wave, darn near a Republican tsunami, sweeping away Democratic control in Congress, certainly in the House, very likely in the Senate.

Make sense? Sure. Democrats in Congress were shooting at each other over things they couldn’t do. President Biden’s approval ratings were plummeting. Republicans were winning cultural war battles, especially in pinning a “defund the police” label on Democrats at a time of rising concern over crime. Redistricting and the history of midterm election trends were with the GOP.

But the political winds shifted.

Enough for Democrats to keep control of the House? Probably not. Republicans need only to pick up about five seats to gain control. Earlier Republican goals of an additional 50 seats now seem unreasonable. A dozen-seat gain is more likely.

Gerrymandering still is a factor. Republicans controlled the redistricting in a majority of the states. In Indiana, Republican redistricting was so skillful that the question analysts ponder isn’t whether Republicans can keep a 7-2 House majority but whether they can capture a long-held Democratic seat centered in Lake County and gain an 8-1 advantage.

There still is the history of the party out of the White House making gains in the first midterm election in a new presidency.

Have political winds shifted enough to enable Democrats to keep the 50-50 Senate tie, with the vice president breaking ties in their favor? Probably so, if some very strange Republican nominees supported by Donald Trump keep performing as they have.

Does the forecast now for a diminishing red wave make sense? Sure. Winds shifted with the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and Republican-controlled state legislatures, such as in Indiana, banning or about to ban virtually all abortion. Polls and some summer election results show the abortion issue has energized Democratic voters, particularly women.

Another reason the winds no longer push a strong red wave is Trump, himself so windy. He is huffing and puffing and threatening to blow the Republican house in. The last thing Republicans need is voter focus again on the Biden vs. Trump 2020 election. Trump lost then, decisively in the popular vote, and most voters are turned off by his whining about losing and pretending that he won.

Trump’s troubles mount, over storming of the Capitol, his efforts to overturn election results and his mysterious haul of top-secret documents to his Florida resort. He spouts off about conspiracy theories, putting his ego ahead of concern about Republican candidates this fall. Why won’t he instead talk of inflation?

Biden and Democrats finally have accomplishments to cite, although their skill in doing so is far from certain. They have, however, successfully turned the tables in cultural war battles. They have pinned a “defund the FBI” label on Republicans and come across as the defenders of the police assaulted in the Capitol insurrection.

Just as it’s hard to predict where lake effect show will hit or miss, it’s difficult to determine where a red or blue wave will hit.

In 2020, predictions were for a blue wave. It did come across many states, with Democrats winning the presidency and control of Congress. Though not robust, the wave helped Biden to win in Michigan. Then the wave stopped at the Indiana line. Winds shifted, sending a bright red wave rolling across Indiana. Trump won big. Democrats lost big in all the races they had hope of winning.

Forecasts of political waves or lake effect snow mean something. Just don’t expect them always to be precise.

Colwell is a columnist for the South Bend Tribune.