Now the question has to be asked - did they know something we didn't know last year, when "they" were jockeying for position for a seat that the veteran and popular incumbent hadn't yet publicly announced whether he'd try to keep.
To many it seemed a tad classless. A few months later, Lautenberg gave them all a political-etiquette get-out-of-jail-free card, and said he would not be running for re-election. He had battled cancer in 2010 - was it flaring up? We just don't know. He died of "complications from pneumonia" - which can be a big catch-all for medical ailments, as anyone who has had a relative in this situation knows.
So what happens now? The question is filled with complicated answers that are dripping with intense political consequences. And at the center of it is New Jersey Gov. Christie, who is up for re-election in November and who may have his eyes on the White House in 2016.
If Gov. Christie appoints someone - presumably a Republican - to take over Lautenberg's seat until this November, then he faces an unfortunate political reality: His name will be below the name of the U.S. Senate candidates on the ballot, which means Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Democrats would love that, and are pushing for a November special election to fill out the last year of Lautenberg's seat.
But Christie may very well wait until November, 2014 for the general election, which would put his race at the top of the ballot. I can hear Christie now - pooh-poohing the notion that this has anything to do with his impending decision. However, political experts say it is very much on-mark in his thinking.
We'll have the latest on what-now scenario, tonight at 11. And we'll look back at the career and life of Frank Lautenberg, a tireless worker, in politics and business. He was, alas, the last Senator who served in World War II.
We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Meteorologist Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Laura Behnke (in for Rob Powers) with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa and me, tonight at 11.
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