As the results began to trickle in from Super Tuesday voting throughout the country, former Vice President Joe Biden took an immediate lead.
While Biden was expected to earn decisive victories in places like Alabama, Arkansas and North Carolina, the so-called Joe-mentum seemingly never stopped. It began early with Virginia and despite Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders starting out with a lead in Texas, Biden was projected to have taken the state by the end of the night. And Biden even continued his surge on Wednesday, when the Associated Press was able to call Maine in his favor with 96 percent of precincts reporting.
Even just last week, experts say it was unthinkable that Biden would be in the position he's in post-Super Tuesday.
"There has been a national shift that turned after South Carolina that has been unprecedented," said Brian Frederick, chairman of political science and associate professor at Bridgewater State University. "With Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar dropping out and endorsing Biden, a lot of those voters seem to have swung to him. The establishment is obviously sending a message to the Democratic voters that Biden is the candidate we want."
In addition to Massachusetts, Biden is projected to win Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia and Texas. Sanders is projected to win California, Colorado, Vermont and Utah.
And locally, Biden beat out Sanders by a decisive margin in Taunton, Raynham, Berkley and Dighton.
In contrast, in the 2016 Democratic primary, Sanders topped Hillary Clinton in Raynham, Berkley and Dighton and she just squeaked past him Taunton.We can deliver news just like this directly to your inbox. You can sign up for This Just In (a daily newsletter that comes out at 7:30 p.m. each evening with items we've posted that day), News Alerts (so you don't miss anything important), our Daily Newsletter (sent each morning) and more. It's customized to your preferences -- and it'll only take a few seconds.
Frederick said he doesn't recall such a swift turnaround by any candidate, in terms of their support increasing as much as Biden's has, in such a small window of time. The professor said 1972 is considered the beginning of the modern era of presidential politics and he can't recall such a swing since then.
"It's not something I've seen in my history of following primary politics," he said.
By the next time the Democratic presidential candidates are on the debate stage — on March 15 in Phoenix, Arizona — seven more states and three territories will have gone to the polls, doling out another 352 delegates.
Despite Biden's strong Super Tuesday performance, Frederick still sees the Democratic primary as a two-person race.
"It comes down to the Rust Belt for Sanders," Frederick said, referring to the northern area of the country near the Great Lakes. "He is going to have to be able to win those states. He's going to have to increase his position in being able to suggest that he's electable. If he can win Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, that definitely gives him a path."
The field of candidates was narrowed on Wednesday when billionaire Mike Bloomberg dropped out of the Democratic presidential race and endorsed Biden. The former New York City mayor only won one territory on Tuesday — American Samoa.
"I've always believed that defeating Donald Trump starts with uniting behind the candidate with the best shot to do it. After yesterday's vote, it is clear that candidate is my friend and a great American, Joe Biden," Bloomberg wrote in a news release.
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told USA TODAY that Bloomberg dropping out of the race is bad news for Trump.
“It sounds as though Bloomberg really is going to follow through on his pledge to spend a billion dollars or more on behalf of the eventual Democratic nominee,” Sabato said. “Without that, I don’t think Democrats would have a prayer of even coming close to what the Republicans are going to spend.”
Frederick, the Bridgewater State professor, said most of Bloomberg's supporters will likely get behind Biden.
"The big question is whether Bloomberg will spend his money to help Biden," he said.
The race narrowed still further on Thursday when Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a one-time front runner, ended her bid for the presidency after finishing third in her home state on Super Tuesday.
As vote tallies continue to trickle in from Super Tuesday, which will make the overall delegate leaderboard more clear, Frederick said eyes will turn to essentially a two-person race on the Democratic side, although U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii also remains in the race.
"I think what we're seeing right now is the huge generational divide in the Democratic party. The major advantage for Biden is with older voters, while Sanders has a higher youth turnout," Frederick said. "It will be interesting to see if Sanders increases the ads attacking Biden on things like Social Security. When the spotlight has been on Biden, he's struggled. Expect this race to increase in intensity of attacks."