The "Solid South" was a political fact, benefiting Democrats for generations and then Republicans, with Bible Belt and racial politics ruling the day.
But demographic changes and recent election results reveal a more nuanced landscape now as the two major parties prepare for their national conventions.
Republicans will convene Aug. 27 in Florida, which is well established as a melting-pot battleground state. Democrats will meet the following week in North Carolina, the perfect example of a Southern electorate not so easily pigeon-holed.
Barack Obama won both states and Virginia four years ago, propelled by young voters, nonwhites and suburban independents.
Each state is in play again, with Republican Mitt Romney needing to reclaim Florida and at least one of the others to reach the White House.