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Columbus, Des Moines, Hampton Roads will determine election

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Columnists

TAMPA, Fla. - Here's how sophisticated election micro-targeting has become: Top Republican advisors agree that Mitt Romney's fate will be decided not just in Ohio and Iowa, but politically split Columbus and Des Moines and President Obama's also in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

Former Bush political director Sara Fagen predicted that the election will likely come down to five states, Ohio, Virginia, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where the margin could be in the thousands of votes. She recommended that Romney focus on Des Moines and Columbus and Obama the Norfolk area.

"Ohio is the most important" for Romney, she said. "Virginia for Obama."

Bush-Cheney reelection campaign strategist Terry Nelson agreed that Ohio will be the state to provide Romney or Obama victory. "It might be the decisive one," he said at a meeting here of GOP strategists hosted by National Journal. Nelson said many states like Virginia and North Carolina won by Obama will return to GOP control, making Ohio more important than ever.

Mike DuHaime, who helped New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pull off an upset, said that Florida will be the determining state, one won by Obama but currently split and the reason the GOP picked the Sunshine State for the presidential convention.

John Brabender, an advisor to Rick Santorum's presidential bid, added Michigan to the mix, and said that if Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania continue to tighten, it would be a sign of a pending Romney victory.