Charles Mahtesian

For all the money spent, doors knocked, ads aired and miles traveled by candidates this year, the 2014 elections will likely come down to the votes cast by a relatively small universe of places.

Whether it's because of their size, demographic make-up, or the unique spot they occupy, these places will have an outsized role in state — and possibly national — politics this year.

Here are seven of them:

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Voters in three states go to the polls tomorrow in North Carolina, Indiana and Ohio. It's the beginning of an eight-week stretch of primaries that should give us a good idea of how the political landscape is shaping up for this November.

NPR's political editor Charlie Mahtesian joins us now to talk about that. Hey, Charlie.

CHARLIE MAHTESIAN, BYLINE: Hi, Melissa.

It's the start of retirement season in the House as members head home after a long, difficult year. Three House members — two Republicans and a Democrat — announced their retirements from Congress this week, ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.