Poll positions at Indy

The slim thread on which candidate Ted Cruz hangs his White House hopes could give way if a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll has an accurate read on Tuesday’s Republican primary in Indiana.

The survey shows Donald Trump with a 15-point lead — 49% to 34% for Cruz, and 13% for John Kasich. Indiana is a winner-take-all state, and if the 57 delegates go to Trump, he’ll be less than 200 away from the 1,237 needed for a first-ballot nomination.

Five other polls in the past week showed Trump with a single-digit lead, but one had a wildly different result. The Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics poll had Cruz way ahead among Hoosier Republicans, with 44.8%, to 29% for Trump and 13.3% for Kasich. That survey had an unusually long two-week sampling period.

Cruz acknowledged what’s at stake. “I think the country is really depending on Indiana to choose the direction of this race,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Trump, on “Fox News Sunday,” said that if he wins Indiana, “it’s over. I think it’s over now.” Of course, he's already called himself the "presumptive nominee" for some time.

The NBC/Journal/Marist poll also showed a tight race on the Democratic side — 50% for Hillary Clinton to 46% for Bernie Sanders. In general-election matchups in Indiana, Trump beat Clinton by 7 points and Sanders by 1 point.

Bumps for Trump

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As dire as the numbers appear, Cruz could take consolation from another weekend of beating Trump in delegate-selection votes at state party conventions.

Cruz dominated the contests in Arizona, Missouri and Virginia, adding to the ranks of his loyalists who will be at the national convention in July and free to vote for him on a second ballot even if obligated to support Trump on the first.

But it wasn’t a sweep — Trump’s supporters took most of the available slots from Massachusetts, and the two contenders broke even in Arkansas. Trump is also crying foul again over slots going to rival delegates in New Hampshire, where he got 35 percent.

Reservations and regrets

The GOP front-runner attacked as “demeaning to men” a Clinton comment that she could handle personal attacks from Trump because she is familiar with “men who sometimes get off the reservation.”

The Clinton campaign Friday night had to walk back her remarks, acknowledging the expression “has some very offensive roots” and she “meant no disrespect to Native Americans,” whose ancestors were often confined to reservations in the 19th century.

The Sanders campaign called Clinton’s choice of words “disappointing.”

The take-away

More Republican elected officials are acquiescing to Trump in ways better described as profiles in caution than in courage, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

Even as Indiana Gov. Mike Pence endorsed Cruz, for example, he gave props to Trump for having “given voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans.”

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Trump noticed and seemed to approve. “I think he gave me more of an endorsement than Ted Cruz,” he said.

Sanders: I can be super man

Sanders says he can still win the Democratic nomination by persuading superdelegates that he’d run a stronger race than Clinton in November, Newsday’s Tom Brune reports.

“I think the evidence is extremely clear that I would be the better candidate,” Sanders said, citing polls on general-election matchups. The vast majority of superdelegates are in Clinton’s column.

Clinton, on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said she would “look forward” to working with Sanders in advance of the national convention on shaping “a progressive platform.”

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A Fail Mary pass?

When Cruz unveiled Carly Fiorina as his running mate in a race that’s not going his way, he wasn’t the first Republican contender to try that desperation move.

When Ronald Reagan did the same in 1976, naming Sen. Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania as his vice presidential choice, it backfired, writes Newsday’s Yancey Roy. President Gerald Ford held on to win the nomination that year.

Trump drops “R-” word on China

Railing against the trade imbalance, Trump said Sunday, “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country, and that’s what they’re doing.”

Trump has repeatedly accused China of manipulating its currency and “killing” the U.S. on trade, but had not described it with that term during his campaign until the rally in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on Sunday.

What else is happening:

  • Trump allies are organizing groups to stage protests in favor of the candidate in case the Cleveland convention ends up being contested ...
  • Marco Rubio won't endorse Cruz barring a contested convention, Politico reports.
  • Sanders’ fundraising dropped sharply in April, from $46 million to $25.8 million, according to The Washington Post ...
  • Trump doesn’t have a plan in place to vet prospective running mates, Bloomberg News reports ...
  • Despite what everyone saw on video five years ago, Trump denied being humiliated at the White House Correspondents dinner in 2011.
  • Trump joked that if he chose Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera for vice president, “I would get that Spanish vote in two seconds” ...
  • Kasich let his frustration show before California Republicans Saturday night. “I’ve been endorsed by over 70 newspapers,” he said. “Wish it mattered” ...
  • Trump reprised his "Not Born in the USA" riff by quoting -- out-of-context -- Heidi Cruz calling her spouse an immigrant.