With the GOP field narrowing, Cruz is on track to surpass Trump among Republicans

While Donald Trump stormed to an early lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination — and seemed on a fast-track to win a majority of GOP convention delegates — the “Trump Train” has slowed and the once divided GOP field he benefited from has shrunk, with Ted Cruz now battling, and even besting, Trump in many nominating contests.

And a new Fox News poll finds Cruz statistically tied with Trump nationally, a development that could unite a GOP electorate, of which Trump has yet to win a majority.

The new survey finds Trump’s support stagnant at 41 percent, with Cruz rising to 38 percent.  The result falls within the poll’s margin of error, meaning it is a statistical tie.

“The poll finds that by a 48-35 percent margin, Cruz bests Trump among ‘very’ conservative voters,” Fox News reports.

It was assumed the decisions by Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and other candidates to drop out would benefit Trump, allowing him to build a majority and clinch the nomination.

Instead, his numbers have remained largely stuck in neutral, with Republicans throwing more of their support to the conservative Cruz.

While Trump will likely enter the Republican National Convention with more delegates than Cruz, it is all but statistically impossible for him to enter with the 1,237 delegates needed to win the required majority vote on the first ballot.

Delegates are required to vote for the candidate assigned by the outcome of their state’s nomination contest.

Trump has currently won 739 delegates.  The remaining primary and caucus contests have only 757 delegates available, meaning Trump would have to win 57 percent of the remaining votes.

That is highly unlikely, as he has never won a majority in any state.

Trump’s victories in primaries have come with vote totals in the 30-40 percent range, made possible by a GOP field divided among a large number of candidates.

That’s a problem for Trump.  While he will likely have more delegates than Cruz, he will not have the majority vote required by convention rules.

With Trump under the 1,237 delegate count that constitutes a majority, the vote would go to a second ballot.  In that round, delegates are free to vote for whomever they wish.

That means the delegate count, divided between Trump, Cruz and several candidates who long ago dropped out, will be reshuffled.

With Cruz statistically tied with Trump in polling — and performing better than Trump against likely Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton — delegates not backing Trump could deliver a majority vote to Cruz.

In order to win the nomination, Trump must expand his appeal beyond liberal Republicans and non-Republicans, and make inroads with conservative Republicans who view him with skepticism.

Trump has been working on that, winning the endorsement of conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, but it is unknown if that will be enough to convince skeptical Republicans that his sudden conversion from lifelong liberalism is sincere.