EXPECTATIONS GAME: INDIANA EDITION
To say that Ted Cruz has to win Indiana would be like saying Keith Smart needed to make this shot to win the 1987 NCAA basketball championship.

But a new poll suggests that the Texas senator is having some problems as a clutch shooter.

Cruz trails by 15 points in the NBC News/WSJ/Marist College poll. It’s a larger lead than other reputable surveys taken on Tuesday’s contest, but even Cruz’s campaign conceded to the NYT that their candidate is behind.

So while it is true that the stakes could not be higher for Cruz, the do-or-die nature of the contest for the second-place candidate means there is more on the line for the frontrunner, Donald Trump.

It’s not as if Trump’s march to the nomination would be ended by a defeat in Indiana. If, however, Cruz somehow pulls off an upset it would signal serious trouble in Trump’s effort to pacify his adopted party.

As we have discussed, the growing consensus in the Republican Party seems to be to end this disastrously damaging primary process and get on with the general election. Once sky-high turnouts, have shrunk to typical or even sub-par showings.

The question, one supposes, has become, ahem, “turn out for what?”

It was the end of February when the #NeverTrump sprang to life with Republicans vowing to fight Trump every step of the way through the primary process and even into the general election.

Ten weeks later, a new hashtag seems to be in order for the GOP: #TolerateTrump.

If Trump wins Indiana and its 57 delegates, Ted Cruz and super spoiler Ohio Gov. John Kasich can say whatever they want. But Trump will be all set to clinch the nomination outright on June 7 in California…if not sooner.

If the polls are right and Cruz loses, it will be a painful time of choosing for the GOP and its conservative base. Will they acquiesce to Trump in hopes that they can alloy his progressive populism with some liberty and constitutionality, or do they start looking for a third way in November?

The warnings of the consequences of Trumpism are not abating even if the will of the party to resist his advances has.

The expectations game we’ve been playing since Feb. 1 in Iowa may be coming to a close. It’s down to one outside shot from Cruz.

[GOP delegate count: Trump 996; Cruz 565; Kasich 153 (1,237 needed to win)]

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
On this day in 1933, a modern version of a legend began that continues to fascinate even to this day. The legend of “Nessie” – the monster that supposedly lives in Scotland’s Loch Ness – captivated readers around the world after a sighting by a couple on the shore of the Highland lake. A photo surfaced the next year that would become the lasting image of the mythical beast, even though it would later be revealed as a phony. Perhaps the monster’s staying power in the public imagination is owed to its longevity. Stories of a massive beast in the 800-foot deep freshwater lake have circulated for at least 1,500 years. Just last month, the Internet was abuzz when a movie prop was found in Loch Ness that bore a striking resemblance to the original fake photo.

Got TIP from the RIGHT or the LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM

POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
National GOP nomination:
Trump 44 percent; Cruz 29.8 percent; Kasich 20 percent
National Dem nomination: Clinton 49.4 percent; Sanders 45.2 percent
General Election: Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +7.3 points
Generic Congressional Vote: Democrats +2.3

POWER PLAY: LOOKING DOWN BALLOT
The free marketeers at the Americans for Prosperity have built a formidable ground game in swing states across the country. But what does the Koch-backed group plan to do about the titanic shifts – and potential GOP wipeout – being forecast at the top of the ticket? Does ground game really matter in the face of such an electoral riptide? Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips talks about his team’s shoe-leather strategy. WATCH HERE.

[Listen to Fox: The latest installment of the Perino & Stirewalt Podcast lays out the Indiana race and potential GOP running mates.] 

SO-CALLED ‘CRUZ DELEGATES’ WAFFLING
National Review: “Down in the polls and with zero margin for error heading into Tuesday’s crucial Indiana primary, Ted Cruz could be forgiven for seeing a silver lining in his apparent strength with unbound Republican delegates…But friendly delegates are as subject to shifts in the race’s momentum as anyone else, and Cruz’s strength with some of these crucial first-ballot convention voters may be overstated — particularly in North Dakota, where his campaign declared victory after filling 18 of 25 unbound delegate slots with its chosen candidates at the April 3 convention…as they’ve watched Cruz struggle to tread water in a primary increasingly dominated by Trump, many of them, wary of a bitter convention battle that could rend the party at its seams, are rethinking their commitment to the Texas senator.”

ISSA: HILLARY CORRUPTION, EMAIL PROBES MAY OUTLAST ELECTION
The Hill: “The scale of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails could force the probe past the election, Rep. Darrell Issa told Fox News host Maria Bartiromo on Sunday…But when it comes to investigating ‘coordinating her activities and President Clinton’s activities and Chelsea’s activities in the Clinton Foundation, they’re probably going to have to leave that until after the election.’”

RACE NOTES
Trump, Cruz spar over Tyson rape conviction - Weekly Standard

Klan hoods, Trump outrage at L.A. May Day marches - LAT

Eastbound and down: ‘Scooby Van’ heads to Appalachia - WashEx

Manchin absolves Hillary on coal jobs line - MetroNews

Clinton fundraising leaves little for state parties - Politico

Bernie vows contested convention - Bloomberg

[Dem delegate count: Clinton 2165; Sanders 1357 (2,383 needed to win)]

THEY SEE HIM ROLLIN’
KSL: “When residents of a city in northeastern Utah noticed two stop signs had gone missing at a busy intersection, they decided to find out why. … The intersection at 600 East and 300 North in Roosevelt was once a four-way stop. But two of the stop signs seemed to disappear overnight, raising safety concerns with residents. … The complicated situation began on Thursday, March 17, when city manager Ryan Snow was pulled over by a Utah Highway Patrol officer in the intersection. Dash cam video shows the officer initiating the traffic stop after Snow’s pickup truck slows down but rolls through the stop sign. …‘the city manager talked to our Public Works director and pointed out that we had three intersections in a row with 4-way stops and wondered if that was in the best interest of the city.’ The following Monday, city workers took down the stop signs for north and southbound traffic.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace."  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.