What was the biggest surprise of this election in which Democrats won control of the U.S. House? Maybe that President Donald Trump is still planning to visit France this weekend for a World War I commemoration, instead of traveling to a battleground state for a political rally.
No, it's not too soon to be thinking about 2020. Because you know Trump is gaming out re-election strategies right now, just as Rep. Nancy Pelosi, among other Democratic leaders, is contemplating how her party can retake the presidency and Senate.
You weren't hoping to take a breather from politics, were you?
This next stage of competition will play out on multiple levels. Soon, some of the Democrats who've been popping up in Iowa and New Hampshire will join U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., as announced presidential challengers. That surely will fire up Trump, who loves campaigning at least as much as governing.
Meanwhile in Washington, expect that every day will be a struggle for control of the government -- and the political narrative. With their House victories, Democrats are no longer strictly the voice of opposition in D.C. Chances are any major legislation passed during the second half of Trump's term will require cooperation from Democrats. Maybe there will be no such cooperation, which some in the party would see as capitulation.
Along with their majority position, House Democrats will gain oversight powers, including the ability to launch investigations and demand documents. That could make life difficult for Trump.
Here's what Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Oversight subcommittee on governing operations, told Bloomberg: "It's not like we're going to go drunk-crazy with subpoenas. But it may seem that way because we are coming off a two-year drought of no subpoenas." So not drunk on power, but maybe a little tipsy.
There's widespread belief that divided government is positive for the country because it nudges the parties to compromise. "Bipartisanship," they used to call it, like back in 1986 when President Ronald Reagan signed a tax reform act sponsored by Democrats.
Trump won't go there of his own volition. The self-described "counter puncher" is most energized when he's berating foes and stirring up dust. It's an ugly act that doesn't always work. Trump, after all, failed to keep Republicans in charge of the House. That was mainly because he incited aggrieved Democrats to support their candidates.
But while Trump lost the House battle, he didn't lose the war. His presidency did not succumb to a blue wave of opposition. Republicans appear to have increased their clout in the Senate, which means they'll likely keep confirming Trump's judicial nominees. They also won a number of important races for governor; they pivot to 2020 holding the governorships (and thus levers of power) in Florida and Ohio, arguably the two most crucial swing states in a presidential election.
America is just as divided as it was before Tuesday's election. But with that flip of House control and with lingering divisions in both major parties, everything is amped up.
Is that a reason for Americans to despair? Not at all. There's work to be done as well as progress to be protected. The economy is going great guns; employers are hiring. Trump and the Democrats may dislike each other, but they can't engage in fisticuffs 24/7. Both will want to show voters they know how to run the country.
Because the race to 2020 is on.
A version of this editorial first appeared in the Chicago Tribune.