State GOP Chairman Ed Cox insisted following the failure of his preferred candidate, Steve Levy, to make it onto the ballot at the convention today that the party-switching Suffolk County executive’s gubernatorial campaign is finished and he will not be trying to launch a petition drive for an independent bid.

Apparently, Levy didn’t get the memo on that, because he just insisted to me during an interview that will air on “Capital Tonight” at 8 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. that he has not, in fact, ruled out trying to stay in the governor’s race.

“I’m not saying I’m doing it,” Levy said. “I’m just saying these people want me to run, and I’m just right now unwinding…I wouldn’t do it just to be a spoiler. I would do it if I thought the other candidates weren’t serious about tax cuts and spending control…There’s no real plan at this moment. I’m just going to decompress a little bit.”

Levy refused to endorse the man who blocked him from getting on the ballot, GOP gubernatorial designee Rick Lazio, saying he wants to wait and see whether the former Long Island congressman progresses as a candidate and sticks to the fiscally responsible playbook that (according to Levy) all the contenders have now adopted – thanks to him.

Cox was singing a very different tune this afternoon, telling reporters in no uncertain terms that Levy has reached the end of the road, adding: “I have talked to him and he will not be running on a third party line.”

The chairman was effusive in his praise of Lazio, saying the newly-minted designee is “on an upward trajectory.” Cox continued to insist that his wooing of Levy into the governor’s race in hopes of forcing a primary was a smart move, explaining:

“I said when Mr. Levy got in to the campaign that competition is good. And boy it has been good.”

Cox insisted he’s not worried about losing his grip on the chairmanship, saying he has no plans to resign and has not been asked to do so.

But sources close to the Lazio campaign say anger with Cox over Levy continues to fester among GOP county chairs and state committee members. Tomorrow is the last day of the convention, so if there’s a move against Cox, it would likely come in the morning. Another fight is expected, too – this time over who will challenge Democratic US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

The contenders: David Malpass, Bruce Blakeman and former Rep. Joe DioGuardi.