ICYMI: Deputy Senate Majority Leader Tom Libous told me last night on CapTon that the GOP is “strongly behind” their two colleagues who are locked in life-or-death primary battles with conservative challengers.

But he also acknowledged that could change depending on what the machine recanvassing and paper ballot counts bring.

I noted that both Sens. Steve Saland and Roy McDonald have the option of running in the general election on the Independence Party line even if they lose to Neil Di Carlo and Kathy Marchione, respectively, and asked Libous who the Republicans would support in the case of a three-way general election contest.

“You’re asking me to make decisions at this point before there’s a final outcome,” Libous responded. “That’s really hard for me to do.”

“I think what we have to do is see where the week takes us. You know, they’re doing the canvassing of the ballots in both races. They’re going to count the absentee ballots. And, you know, we’ll do what we’ve always done. We’ll make the decisions that we have to make.

Right now, we continue to stay strongly behind McDonald and Saland. They’re members of our conference. We never left them for a minute, and we’re not going to leave them.”

“We’ll see what happens at the end of the week, and then we’ll make whatever determination we have to to move forward.”

In other words: We’re with them until circumstances change, and we’re not with them any longer.

Libous reminded me that the Senate GOP has been here before. In 2010, the conference backed Somers Town Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy against Assemblyman Greg Ball, who was then a self-styled maverick with an ultra-conservative streak.

The Senate Republicans even went so far as to send out some rather nasty mail against Ball that highlighted sexual harassment and stalking claims lodged against him by two different women.

Ball went on to win the primary, and the Senate Republicans eventually embraced him – even going so far as to say they would defend him this year in a primary battle against Assemblyman Steve Katz.

(Sadly, that battle, which promised to be epic, never materialized, as Katz thought better of it and dropped out).

While at once declaring the conference’s fealty to McDonald and Saland, Libous admitted:

“As I sit here and talk to you, we are firmly behind McDonald and Saland. We’ll see where the week takes us, and then we’ll make whatever decisions.”

“Some of those decisions may be a little difficult, but I think at the end of the day we will shore up our majority, we will increase our majority. And I feel really good about that, and I know members of our conference feel good about it.”

Libous also declined to say that the decision by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos to allow the same-sex marriage bill to come to the floor for a vote last year – where it passed, thanks to “yes” votes from Saland and McDonald, along with Sens. Mark Grisanti and Jim Alesi – was a bad idea, though he did allow the Republicans knew quite well that the vote would cost them with the conservative grassroots in this election.