If he runs and wins, the senator would begin the term the month he turns 92, and be 98 by the end. Stanford psychiatry professor Keith Humphreys, using a Social Security table, pointed out that a "92-year-old has only a one in six chance of living to 98," and "those who do live to 98 have an extremely high rate of significant physical and/or mental decline."
After Newark Mayor and fellow Democrat Cory Booker, a whippersnapper at 43, mentioned pursuing the Senate seat, Lautenberg suggested he was "disrespectful," as though the position was a sinecure much like, well, the papacy.
Lautenberg alluded to "spanking" Booker for his insolence, telling The Inquirer's Jonathan Tamari: "I have four children, I love each one of them. I can't tell you that one of them wasn't occasionally disrespectful, so I gave them a spanking and everything was OK."
Uh, not OK. We're talking about the mayor of the state's largest city, not to mention the heroic rescuer of a neighbor from a burning building and Cha Cha the mutt from the cold.
In December, Lautenberg was felled by the flu and bronchitis, and missed several crucial votes. He waved off his use of a cane: "I don't need this, but it adds cachet."
It is never wise to look to the late Strom Thurmond, who celebrated his centennial year in the Senate, for precedence.
When age, rather than actions, define a politician, he has a problem. The questions are not going to stop. Weight can also dominate the debate.
Last week, Gov. Christie, doughnut in hand, told David Letterman, "I'm basically the healthiest fat guy you've ever seen."
Right, sort of like Lautenberg's cane adding cachet.
The health issue will not disappear any easier than the governor's heft, especially as his national political profile grows. The goal is not to be lumped with William Howard Taft.
Former White House physician Connie Mariano, a fellow Republican, told CNN, "I just want him to lose weight. I worry about this man dying in office."
With his signature diplomacy, Christie labeled her a "hack" and said "she should just shut up," an example of his bully tendencies that, I've long suspected, he gets away with due to his heft. Those comments would seem a lot meaner coming from someone fit.
The governor, now 50, did acknowledge that "my doctor continues to warn me that my luck is going to run out relatively soon."
Not exactly a winning slogan for a 2016 presidential bid.
His weight isn't going to go away as an issue until Christie starts to tend to his health. Still, the governor has a 70 percent approval rating. As the New York Times' Gail Collins noted: "There are citizens all over the country who would trade their more compact leaders for Christie in a second. Just ask somebody in Pennsylvania."
We would! We would!
In New Jersey, there are worse problems to have than advanced age or obesity. Like facing possible Senate and federal investigations. Just ask Sen. Bob Menendez.
Contact Karen Heller at 215-854-2586 or email@example.com, or follow on Twitter at @kheller.