SOUTH BEND – Whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow this week means nothing in forecasting weather for the next six weeks.
 
Anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists could argue, I suppose, that Phil must be accurate, what with all of science and logic discounting him. But whether or not you believe in the groundhog and things like horse dewormer as a COVID cure, it is true that shadows cast around Groundhog Day two years ago forecast the climate for the Democratic presidential nomination race.
     
Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, 2020, came the day before the Iowa Democratic caucuses. And shadows cast by those caucuses, even with final results delayed and diminished in national attention by incompetent tabulating, provided a forecast of what the next six weeks would bring in the nomination race.
     
Bernie Sanders, then regarded as the front-runner in Iowa and nationally for the nomination, lost in the vote to a young former South Bend mayor.
     
Obviously, it didn’t mean that Pete Buttigieg would go on to be the nominee. But a safe prediction right then was that Buttigieg’s meteoric rise would mean this Mayor Pete had a bright political future and would have a key Cabinet post if there was to be a Democratic administration.
     
Looking back, it also meant that Sanders, favorite of the Democratic left, wasn’t going to meet expectations, despite all of his funding, organizing and name recognition, as he faced voters in the Midwest and South.
     
Joe Biden didn’t do that well in the Iowa vote count, finishing fourth. But if a former mayor of South Bend could beat Sanders in the Iowa caucuses, wouldn’t a former vice president have a good chance to do the same in primaries in the next six weeks, with the field narrowing and Sanders unable to expand his base?
     
Then, in the New Hampshire primary, Sanders just barely won over Buttigieg. Sanders again underachieved, getting only 25.7% of the vote, holding but not expanding his base. Other Democratic contenders split the remaining three-fourths of the vote. Clearly, if the field narrowed for a one-on-one race, Sanders would have no chance.
     
Biden, hanging on, counted on showing in South Carolina on Feb. 29 that he could sweep the Black vote, vital for winning there and in defeating Donald Trump in the fall. Sweep he did. And the political weather for Biden kept improving as many Democrats concluded, probably correctly, that he was the Democratic contender most likely to defeat Trump.
     
Buttigieg and some other contenders with significant followings dropped out of the race and made party-unifying endorsements of Biden on the eve of the March 3 Super Tuesday voting. Biden then won in 10 states, some by landslides over Sanders. It continued elsewhere, with Biden erasing any last doubt with wins in Arizona, Florida and Illinois on St. Patrick’s Day, six weeks after Iowa.
     
In the six weeks after Groundhog Day this year, there will be no dramatic political shift from votes in primaries. With no presidential nominations at stake, there will be little national attention on state primaries, although nominees for Congress and governor will be picked. No primary is scheduled in February. There will be no Super Tuesday.  But there will be politics.
     
Democrats this Groundhog Day will see a shadow already cast over them by their fighting with each other and the low approval ratings for Biden. Some, frustrated by failure to achieve all of their political goals, threaten to go back inside, like a frightened Phil, and not even vote.
     
Republicans, seeing brighter prospects, still worry about whether Trump will cast a shadow over the political climate.
     
Despite what any conspiracy theorists believe, neither the famous Phil nor the infamous Q of QAnon can tell us what will happen. 

Colwell is a South Bend Tribune columnist.