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Trump likely to dominate state GOP conclave

New York State Republicans will limp into our town late this week for their state (of sorry affairs) convention.

The party hasn’t elected a statewide official since 2002, might soon lose its last bastion of power in the State Senate, will probably face a popular favorite daughter in the November presidential election and on Friday will nominate a Senate opponent for the historically invincible Chuck Schumer.

Other than all that, things are just ducky for the state GOP.

But don’t for a minute dismiss the proceedings conducted by Chairman Ed Cox at the new Buffalo Marriott HarborCenter Hotel. The conclave will name attorney Wendy Long, who challenged Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2012, for the unenviable task of taking on Schumer. That will complete any substantive official business.

But the convention will also serve as a bully pulpit for all things Republican in this election year.

“If you get this many Republicans together in 2016,” said one convention insider, “they’re going to talk a lot of presidential politics.”

Suddenly, that looks increasingly to be all Donald Trump all the time. The Trump dynamic could prove even more intense should the native New Yorker continue his momentum in Tuesday’s Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses.

Several sources close to the party expect Trump’s campaign to manifest itself more clearly this week, most likely at the Buffalo convention or at least in connection to it.

“There will be a lot of convention intrigue,” said another insider.

It also would prove an ideal time for whatever county chairmen or officials to declare their undying love for the Manhattan billionaire. The suspicion here remains that Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy will join the chorus, especially after the straw vote he convened on Feb. 13 revealed overwhelming Trump support in the local party.

Rep. Chris Collins started the ball rolling last week when his allegiance to Jeb Bush expired with the former Florida governor’s candidacy. Collins was the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Trump.

“Donald Trump has clearly demonstrated that he has both the guts and the fortitude to return our nation’s jobs stolen by China, take on our enemies like ISIS, Iran, North Korea and Russia, and, most importantly, re-establish the opportunity for our children and grandchildren to attain the American Dream,” Collins said.

For sure, the other presidential Republicans will field surrogate supporters in Buffalo on Friday. Former Ambassador Tony Gioia of Buffalo, who may or may not attend, remains one of Sen. Marco Rubio’s top national supporters. Others will be working the room.

But the local Trump forces are making their mark on the statewide GOP scene. Assemblyman David DiPietro of East Aurora is assuming an increasingly key role in the Trump campaign following his volunteer coordinating efforts in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Others expect political consultant Michael Caputo, also of East Aurora, to be part of the campaign, too.

DiPietro would not discuss his Trump role, but it is expected the assemblyman will organize phone banks in Western New York to reach voters in other primary states. One ally said DiPietro is emerging as one of Trump’s top elected official supporters.

“He’s asking volunteers to work from their hometowns on phone banks,” the source said, adding the Trump campaign views the efforts as far more cost-effective than transporting and housing ground forces.

Ironically, all of Trump’s successes only lessen the chance that New York will play a significant role in the national Republican story with its late primary on April 19 – despite hopes the formerly diffused field would stretch out the process. It could still happen. After Super Tuesday this week, however, the nomination could be well on its way to becoming another Trump property.

Anyone who dared predict that has special talents that should be immediately transferred to Las Vegas.