New York Republicans can no longer dream of being kingmakers in the presidential primary, but the state offers Mitt Romney a chance to pick up his biggest load of delegates yet.
With 95 delegates, New York is one of five East Coast states holding primaries next Tuesday. State Republicans earlier this year had looked to play a pivotal role in the hard-fought presidential primary. Hopes evaporated recently, however, as Romney built a wide lead in the race for the 1,144 delegates required to secure the GOP nomination and Rick Santorum suspended his campaign.
Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul remain in the race but are behind Romney in delegates and cash.
"We missed our New Hampshire moment, from the point of view of having all the excitement of a real campaign here," said state Republican chairman Ed Cox.
The contest is shaping up differently than New York's last presidential primary in 2008, when Hillary Rodham Clinton beat back a strong challenge from Barack Obama and Romney lost to John McCain. This time around, there is no Democratic presidential primary, and Republican candidates will not leave many footprints in the state.
Paul is set to visit Cornell University on Thursday night. Gingrich will be in New York City the same night for the Republican state committee dinner and will appear at a downtown Buffalo rally Friday with developer Carl Paladino, a former candidate for New York governor. It was not clear if Romney is making any New York appearances.
Romney, a former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, is expected to do well in New York on Tuesday. Cox called New York "a real Romney state," and polls showed him with a commanding lead even before Santorum stopped campaigning.
Still, the primary gives a chance for the state's 2.8 million registered Republicans to have a say. Todd Seavey, a libertarian blogger from New York City, said he's still excited to cast his vote for Paul.
"It might be impossible to stop Romney, but it still helps to send the biggest possible libertarian — small 'L' — signal to remind people there's another option," Seavey said.
A candidate who wins more than half the vote Tuesday would get the state's 34 at-large Republican delegates (if no candidate gets a majority vote, they're doled out proportionately). Also in play are two delegates from each of New York's current 29 congressional districts, which will go to the winner of the districts.
Cox and the two other New York members of the Republican National Committee are free to endorse any candidate. Cox has already endorsed Romney.
"We are, along with Gov. Romney, pivoting to go after Barack Obama now as a united party here in New York state," Cox said.