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McCain's NY Promise Morphs into His NJ Strategy

John McCain stood at Rockefeller Center earlier this year and made a bold prediction: I will carry New York in the fall campaign, something no Republican has done since 1984.

"We're going to campaign all over this magnificent state. We're not going to give it up to anybody!" he told a cheering primary Super Tuesday crowd in February.

So when it came time to set up his New York campaign office, where did McCain put it? Times Square? Albany?

No. New Jersey.

Woodbridge, N.J., to be exact, a good 45 minutes from midtown. And it chafed some New York politicos that the grand opening of McCain's "New Jersey/New York" regional headquarters June 25 was headlined by five pols - Garden Staters all.

There's a saying in politics that the candidates' travel schedules don't lie but reveal their true strategy. In this case, so does the real estate.

For all of McCain's big-city bravado, even his most loyal supporters know it's hard to flip bluer-than-blue New York against Democrat Barack Obama. But in Jersey? They're optimistic.

"I would say right now New York is a long shot," said Rep. Peter King (R- Seaford), a longtime McCain supporter. "But we can get the benefit of the New Jersey campaign, and if the numbers pick up, you might see more in New York."

To be sure, McCain has a lot of fans upstate and on Long Island, where he thumped George W. Bush in 2000's primary. He can count on "Reagan Democrats," who carried the state for the former president in 1984.

McCain's top man here, Ed Cox, in photo at left, insists he can put the state in play. "New Yorkers like people who solve problems, and John McCain is a problem-solver," Cox said.