The Republican establishment needed something like a death on SCOTUS, although I'm sure they would have preferred it be someone - four someones come to mind - other than Scalia. It is looking like their nominee in the upcoming Presidential election will be less than palatable to many in their party. Voter turnout may suffer as a result. Throw in a SCOTUS appointment - assuming they can filibuster it until then - and there you have the ultimate get out the vote incentive for the right. Especially the religious right.