Wonderful news, less so for Maverick (who still trails by five overall) than for hawks desperate to protect the progress that’s been made in Iraq. As Lowry notes, if McCain’s ahead on this issue it likely means the public’s starting to see value in keeping troops there — a point supported by Quinnipiac battleground surveys — with McCain reaping some goodwill for having supported staying the course when the Democrats were ready to abandon ship. If you’re wondering why “surge” rhetoric has been creeping into his stump speeches on unrelated issues lately, this is probably why.

[O]n specific issues, Obama is treading water or sinking a bit. On the number one issue of the campaign right now, the economy, Obama leads McCain 43%-39%, compared to 44%-37% reported by TIME’s poll in June. Despite his highly touted tour of Europe, the Middle East and Afghanistan last month, Obama may be in something of a late summer slump. The poll shows that voters have increased their faith in McCain’s ability to manage the Iraq war, favoring him over Obama by a margin of 51%-36%, a five point jump since June. And voters boosted their belief that McCain would do a better job in managing the war on terror than they did in June, favoring the Arizona Senator over his colleague from Illinois by a 56%-29% margin, up from 53%-33% in June.

The other poll is Rasmussen’s survey of voter trust yesterday, where McCain leads — believe it or not — on nine out of 14 issues, including by 12 points on Iraq. Quote: “Perhaps the most interesting finding of these polls is that McCain has expanded his leads on nearly every issue he had previously had the advantage on, while Obama’s leads have diminished over the past two weeks.” They’re dead even on the economy, and on social security, where McCain used to trail, he now leads by fully six points. Karl e-mails to say he suspects it has to do with being a wrinkly old white-haired dude, as Paris Hilton put it, but if that were so he never should have been behind. It has to be attributable to those ads chipping away at Obama’s credibility, no?