DAMMIT: I write my posts ahead of time and schedule them to post later. So this sort of thing happens.
Luckily, I happened to check the news before I left for my car.
WASHINGTON — As he approached his 89th birthday this year, Senator Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey was finally considering retirement, an option he had tried a decade earlier and hated so much that he jumped at the chance to return to political life.
Now he was the oldest member of the Senate. His family was urging him not to seek a sixth term. Polls were showing that voters might not give him one, and he had never liked fund-raising.
Then came Cory A. Booker, the 43-year-old mayor of Newark, whose 1.3 million followers on Twitter and robust presence on television had given him a reputation as a rising star in the Democratic Party, announcing that he would run for the Senate when Mr. Lautenberg’s term is up. He made his declaration nearly two years before Election Day, and, notably, before Mr. Lautenberg, a fellow Democrat, had announced his own intentions.
If Mr. Booker was hoping to nudge Mr. Lautenberg toward the door, his announcement has had precisely the opposite effect. Mr. Lautenberg, a fighter dubbed “swamp dog” by a past opponent, has embraced his job with new vigor. He has taken a leading role on the issues of the day: fighting for recovery money for his hurricane-hit state and pushing for gun control after the shootings in Newtown, Conn.
Well, I did a look at mortality of popes, and while most senators don't die in office, let's take a look at similar data. Look at this handy document the U.S. Senate provides: Senators of the United States, 1789 – 2012. Looks like they update this every so often. They've also got a handy list of longest-serving senators, and senators who have died since 2000. Wikipedia has a list of current senators that you can sort by age.
Alas, nobody has provided an easily-stripped table with all the senators' dates of birth (and death, if applicable), so I'm just going to look at Lautenberg, and give you some probabilities.
My mortality table isn't credible past age 85 for calculating probabilities.
But I can do calculations anyway with HEAVY DISCLAIMERS. The following graph is probability of survival to specific ages, given the person is currently a male age 89, using two different mortality tables, which are less credible at the highest ages.
The one with higher survival probabilities are from an annuitant mortality table with a generous mortality improvement factor (for the actuaries out there, I'm using A-2000 with a simple 1% per year improvement). For the lower one, I'm using Social Security's 2010 calendar year mortality table, no mortality improvement. I figure this brackets a reasonable range for mortality, though Lautenberg is probably near the higher end, as many people his age are much more impaired than he is.
So I had to delete a bunch of stuff in my original post, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone had approached Lautenberg with a similar graph saying: chances are much worse than 50% that you'd survive another term. Do you really want to spend your last years with these bozos?
Or perhaps they were more tactful than most actuaries.
Local news coverage of Lautenberg's announcement.