Is it time to call the game?  According to a new survey from Pew, almost half of all Republicans think the ongoing primaries are hurting the party, while a far larger percentage believe that Mitt Romney has become the inevitable nominee:

Following primary victories in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia last Tuesday, Mitt Romney is clearly seen as the inevitable GOP nominee, and Republicans now see continued primaries as bad for the party.

In the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, conducted April 5-8, 2012, roughly three-quarters (74%) of Republican and Republican-leaning voters say that Romney will definitely be the Republican Party’s nominee this fall. Only 21% believe a candidate other than Romney still has a chance to become the party’s nominee.

And Republicans’ appetite for the ongoing primary campaign has soured. By a 47% to 36% margin, more say it is a bad for the party, not good, that the nomination race has not yet been decided and is still going on. Just a month ago, Republicans were split on this question, and as recently as February a majority thought it was a good thing for the party that the nomination had not yet been finalized.

I suspect that this poll will get a lot of attention today, now that Rick Santorum has returned to the campaign trail, but a few caveats are in order.  The poll sample in this case was 295 self-identifying Republican or GOP-leaning registered voters.  That’s not an especially large sample for a national poll, which is why Pew has a 7% margin of error on the results.  Technically speaking, that puts the “appetite” question on the outer edges of a virtual tie.

Furthermore, Pew doesn’t give any details about the location of these voters — and that might be a wee bit important in determining why they believe that further competition is more harmful than useful at this point.  It obviously doesn’t relate to the conclusions about the likelihood of Romney winning the nomination; nearly three in four say he’s all but wrapped it up, but less than half think it’s time to end the process.  How many of these respondents live in states that have already had their nomination contests, and how many would still like to cast a meaningful vote in the primaries?  I suspect that there would be a wide, wide divergence of polling results between Florida and Pennsylvania, or Michigan and Texas, for instance.  In a sample of less than 300 registered voters nationwide, the location of these respondents makes a bigger difference to the overall results for this kind of question.

The only interesting takeaway from this survey is that a large number of people who believe Romney has all but won the nomination still want to see more debate.  Romney still needs to close the deal with the base, but the numbers will encourage Romney’s competitors to make him keep working for that resolution.

Tags: GOP polls