Is Ted Cruz leading the GOP field? He says he is

It might be an outlier, but an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has Ted Cruz claiming the mantle of GOP presidential front-runner as he campaigns furiously ahead of Saturday's South Carolina primary.

“Yesterday, a new national poll came out. There’s a new national front-runner,” the U.S. senator from Texas told a Greenville County Republican Women’s Club luncheon on Thursday to some whoops and applause at the elegant Poinsett Club.

Explore>>Related: 5 things to know about the South Carolina primary

“According to their poll, we’re in first with 28 percent of the vote. Donald Trump is in second place with 26 percent — I expect a storm of tweets any minute — and then the next closest candidate is down at 17 percent,” Cruz said.

The next-closest would be U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, with whom Cruz has been mixing it up every bit as much as he has with Trump in recent days.

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Cruz noted that the poll would signify the first time in many months that Trump wasn’t well out front, where most polls still place him.

The Real Clear Politics average of recent polls — even including the NBC/WSJ poll — had Trump with 33.8 percent, followed by Cruz with 21 percent and Rubio with 16.3 percent. In a new Fox Poll released Thursday, Trump leads nationally with 36 percent among Republican voters to 19 percent for Cruz and 15 percent for Rubio.

Bill McInturff, who with Democratic pollster Peter Hart conducted the NBC/WSJ survey, said it’s too soon to know whether they were “right on top of a shift in the campaign” or “if it is a momentary pause before the numbers snap back into place.”

For more on this poll and where the candidates stand going into South Carolina, click here.