A rare piece of good news in an omnibus poll otherwise brimming with bad vibes. Add a grain of salt before consuming, as the sample’s skewed a bit more towards Democrats than in other recent WaPo polls. WaPo’s also naturally more interested in the data on race — three in 10 admit to prejudice, there’s a racial split on whether race relations have improved, etc. — even though McCain’s age proves to be a bigger liability for him than race does for Obama by a 40/23 spread.

Here’s the most surprising find: Obama with a huge lead on “values”? I assume/hope that’s an artifact of the huge Democratic lead on the generic ballot, since the specific “values” questions asked in the poll show little movement over time.

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Obama’s dead even with him now too on the question of who the stronger leader is, a category McCain had led by 11 points in March. Also worrisome, over the course of 10 different polls during the last year, a question about “new direction and new ideas” versus “strength and experience” had never seen the former category top 43% (except once) and never seen the latter below 47% (except once). The new data: 50/43 in favor of Hopenchange.

Foreign policy? Here’s the obligatory data showing no shift on Iraq, although in order to stop Karl from yelling at me again, I’ll note that there’s been a nine-point gain in the number who think we’re winning the war since January 2007. (A plurality still think we’re losing, 46/38.)

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And here’s an encouraging result. The question: “Some people say a president (should NOT meet with leaders of foreign countries that are hostile toward the United States, because it could reward their behavior and make the U.S. look weak). Others say a president (SHOULD be willing to meet with leaders of foreign countries that are hostile toward the United States because talking can improve relations and avoid confrontation.) Which of these views comes closer to your own?”

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Why is Maverick hammering this point if public opinion is so lopsidedly against him? Because the “should not” contingent above probably cares a lot more about this issue than the “should” contingent does, which makes it an easy way to score points with the base. WaPo has a mystifying article out this morning quoting GOP analysts as wondering why McCain seems to oscillate so much between the image of a maverick reformist and a rock-ribbed Republican. Pssst: Because he needs centrists and conservatives to win, which explains the dopey straddle on drilling offshore but not in ANWR and his vow to secure the borders first while also somehow pushing for comprehensive immigration reform on the day after he’s inaugurated.

Exit question: Actually, this constitutes progress, doesn’t it? The “very” spread here is “only” 19%, as opposed to the 30-pointer in Fox News’s latest. Good news!

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