In politics, you never know when the emergence of an unexpected issue will turn an election on its head.
That's what's the tragic oil spill off the Louisiana coast is doing to races all the way in California. The disaster is not only sending 200,000 gallons per day into some of the nation's most important fishing and wildlife areas, but it has become a huge point of division for California's gubernatorial and U.S. races.
Domestic oil production translates into jobs and badly needed tax revenues.
So it shouldn't be a surprise that with California facing a budget deficit of $20 billion over the next 14 months, some political candidates have been arguing strenuously for drilling off the California coast.
The split has largely been along party lines -- most Republican candidates (Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner, Carly Fiorina, Chuck Devore) supported drilling, and most Democratic candidates (Jerry Brown, Barbara Boxer) opposed it.
What happens from this point forward may have significant impacts on the futures of all these candidates and others.
If voters are looking for a way to distinguish the candidates of from one another on the questions of energy and environment, the Louisiana oil spill may provide such a measuring stick.
As for some of the candidates who have taken pro offshore drilling positions to this point, let the posturing and spinning begin.