Even my own colleagues mocked me for suggesting that Iraqi prime minister Maliki's confusing-but-apparent embrace of an Obama-ish withdrawal timeline last month would have unpredictable effects and could actually redound to McCain's benefit. But check out the new Time poll:

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.

Hard to square that with the instant CW of the moment that Maliki had delivered a game-changer. But it would be consistent with my theory that, if McCain is forced by Maliki to drop his unpopular talk of a very long-term occupation ("100 years"), and the debate is more about who can best manage a far narrower time frame, the guy known for his military experience could benefit overall.

--Michael Crowley