Surprise: Trump falls behind Cruz in national NBC/WSJ poll

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Trump on Polls: Someone at WSJ Doesn't Like Me

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has fallen behind Ted Cruz in the national GOP horserace, according to a brand-new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

In the poll, Cruz is the first choice of 28 percent of Republican primary voters, while Trump gets 26 percent. They're followed by Marco Rubio at 17 percent, John Kasich at 11 percent, Ben Carson at 10 percent and Jeb Bush at 4 percent.

The results from the poll — conducted after Trump's victory in New Hampshire and Saturday's GOP debate in South Carolina — are a significant reversal from last month, when Trump held a 13-point lead over Cruz, 33 percent to 20 percent.

Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted this survey with Democratic pollster Peter Hart and his firm Hart Research Associates, says Trump's drop could signal being "right on top of a shift in the campaign."

"When you see a number this different, it means you might be right on top of a shift in the campaign. What you don't know yet is if the change is going to take place or if it is a momentary 'pause' before the numbers snap back into place," he said.

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Surprise: Trump falls behind Cruz in national NBC/WSJ poll
Republican presidential candidates, from left, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, businessman Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson take the stage before the CBS News Republican presidential debate at the Peace Center, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Republican presidential candidates, from left, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, businessman Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson participate during the CBS News Republican presidential debate at the Peace Center, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush poses for a photograph after the CBS News Republican presidential debate at the Peace Center, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz (L)and Marco Rubio (R) applaud as fellow candidate Donald Trump (C) is introduced during the CBS News Republican Presidential Debate in Greenville, South Carolina, February 13, 2016. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
GREENVILLE, SC - FEBRUARY 13: Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) participate in a CBS News GOP Debate February 13, 2016 at the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina. Residents of South Carolina will vote for the Republican candidate at the primary on February 20. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., right, right, speaks to Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump during a commercial break during the CBS News Republican presidential debate at the Peace Center, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
GREENVILLE, SC - FEBRUARY 13: Republican presidential candidate Ohio Governor John Kasich participates in a CBS News GOP Debate February 13, 2016 at the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina. Residents of South Carolina will vote for the Republican candidate at the primary on February 20. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump speaks during the CBS News Republican presidential debate at the Peace Center, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, left, speaks as Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush listens during the CBS News Republican presidential debate at the Peace Center, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush responds to Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump during the CBS News Republican presidential debate at the Peace Center, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump speaks during the CBS News Republican presidential debate at the Peace Center, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Republican presidential candidates, from left, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, businessman Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson participate during the CBS News Republican presidential debate at the Peace Center, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio gives a thumbs up after the CBS News Republican Presidential Debate in Greenville, South Carolina, February 13, 2016. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during the CBS News Republican presidential debate at the Peace Center, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., right, speaks with Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump during the CBS News Republican presidential debate at the Peace Center, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Republican presidential candidates, from left, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, businessman Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson participate during the CBS News Republican presidential debate at the Peace Center, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, speaks during the Republican presidential candidate debate sponsored by CBS News and the Republican National Committee at the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina, U.S., on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. Donald Trump tops the GOP field with support from 36.3 percent of likely South Carolina Republican primary voters with Ted Cruz at 19.6 percent, according to a poll conducted for the Augusta Chronicle released on Friday. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
GREENVILLE, SC - FEBRUARY 13: Republican presidential candidates Ben Carson (R) listens to a TV crew member as Donald Trump (L) smiles during a break of a CBS News GOP Debate February 13, 2016 at the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina. Residents of South Carolina will vote for the Republican candidate at the primary on February 20. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., kisses his wife Jeanette Dousdebes Rubio after the CBS News Republican presidential debate at the Peace Center, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
2016 Republican Presidential candidates Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc., from left, Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, and Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon, stand on stage at the start of the Republican presidential candidate debate sponsored by CBS News and the Republican National Committee at the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina, U.S., on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. Donald Trump tops the GOP field with support from 36.3 percent of likely South Carolina Republican primary voters with Ted Cruz at 19.6 percent, according to a poll conducted for the Augusta Chronicle released on Friday. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump speaks to the media in the spin room after the CBS News Republican presidential debate at the Peace Center, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
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McInturff added, "So, one poll post-Saturday debate can only reflect there may have been a 'pause' as Republican voters take another look at Trump. This happened earlier this summer and he bounced back stronger. We will have to wait this time and see what voters decide."

This poll comes after other surveys -- both nationally and in South Carolina, the site of Saturday's next Republican contest -- show Trump with a commanding lead. But some of those weren't conducted entirely after the last debate like the NBC/WSJ poll.

Another possible explanation for Trump's decline in the new NBC/WSJ poll is an increase in "very conservative" Republican voters from January's sample.

If the current poll is re-weighted to reflect the ideological composition from last month, the GOP horserace numbers are: Trump 26 percent, Cruz 25 percent, Rubio 18 percent and Kasich 13 percent — so Trump is ahead by one point, but still down from January.

In addition to Trump's decline in the GOP race, the new NBC/WSJ poll shows a nine-point drop in the percentage of GOP primary voters who can see themselves supporting the real-estate mogul — from 65 percent in January to 56 percent now.

The highest candidate scores on this scale: Rubio (70 percent can see themselves supporting him), Cruz (65 percent), Carson (62 percent), Trump (56 percent), Kasich (49 percent) and Bush (46 percent).

And in hypothetical one-on-one match ups, Trump trails both Cruz (56 percent to 40 percent) and Rubio (57 percent to 41 percent). In January, Trump was ahead of Rubio (by seven points) but behind Cruz (by eight points).

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted Feb. 14-16 of 800 registered voters (which has a margin of error of plus-minus 3.5 percentage points) and 400 GOP primary voters (which has a margin of error of plus-minus 4.9 percentage points).


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