Rita Ciolli Rita Ciolli

Rita Ciolli is editor of the Editorial and Opinion pages of Newsday and amNewYork.

After more than six years heading the New York Republican State Committee, Chairman Ed Cox's dream of the state becoming a player in the presidential-nominating process may finally come true.

Candidates seeking the White House are always in Manhattan and the Hamptons because that's where the money is, but they almost never campaign in the state.

However, more than just an ATM, New York has 95 delegates to dispense. And in an unpredictable and wide-open nominating year, Cox tells us GOP candidates are eyeing the April 19 primary.

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The New York contest comes more than halfway through the primary cycle, before Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California.

"We are the gateway to the remaining 40 percent of the delegates," he said. Most of New York's delegates will be awarded through the primary process.

Each one of the state's 27 congressional districts offers up three delegates, and if a candidate wins a majority in a district he or she claims that district's entire slate. So by investing a little time and money in NYC and on Long Island, a lot of delegates can be scooped up with relatively little effort.

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For the first time, Cox is fielding inquiries from campaigns — he declined to say which ones — about how the NY system works. He is even pitching the virtues of Long Island MacArthur airport, for its accessibility and ease of navigation to the campaigns. He predicts there will be four serious contenders remaining by April, with perhaps another one or two staying around to prove his or her vice-presidential bona fides.

But wouldn't the hometown audience go all in for Donald Trump, negating NY's appeal? That's a question Cox would not answer.

This appeared in today's Point, Newsday Editorial Board's daily newsletter taking you behind closed doors into the New York political scene. To subscribe, click here.