A couple of sunbeams on an otherwise cloudy day. Both polls were taken over the weekend so Maverick should have been melting down along with the public’s confidence in the economy, but instead he’s hanging tight. The Journal speculates it’s because he’s harnessed some sort of populist disgruntlement and become a Howard Beale figure — which is stupid given that that should coincide with “change,” and Obama leads him consistently on the point. Anyway, the key: Indies. They’re making up the ground he’s losing on the economy. Quoth the Times:

McCain has done a better job wooing independent voters than he did last month. Among registered voters who describe themselves as independent, 34% supported Obama and 49% supported McCain.

That is a big swing from August, when Obama led among independents 46% to 35%. That is, in part, because that fluid category of voters this month included a larger portion of white men without college degrees, a group Obama has a hard time wooing…

Palin’s nomination was a plus for McCain among Republicans and independents: 43% of GOP registered voters and 38% of independents say they are more likely to vote for McCain because of Palin. Only 2% of Republicans and 18% of independents said she made them less likely to support McCain.

NBC sees a 13-point lead for McCain among independents, up five from two weeks ago, although its data on Palin is grimmer. E.g.:

The Times’s data splits 41/46 on whether she’s qualified to be president. But note:

More good news: Four in 10 voters tell NBC the debates will be extremely or “quite” important to their vote, so there’s still plenty of room for movement — assuming that the debates go on, that is. Which, according to this flash poll from Survey USA after McCain’s call for postponement, they definitely should.

Exit question: If the national polls are this close — Gallup also has it within three points and Rasmussen within two — what’s going on with the bloodletting in Time’s new battleground poll? Obama by nine in Pennsylvania? Really?