Updated at 5:15 p.m. with new timetable for ballot printing.
National Republicans said Tuesday that they won't spend a dime to help elect Rep. Todd Akin to the U.S. Senate. But if they can persuade him to drop out, they might have to pony up some significant cash.
The deadline passed Tuesday for Akin to easily and instantly drop out of the Senate race in Missouri. Republicans still have more than a month during which they can prevail upon him to step down, but he would have to seek a court order.
But if it goes on for a while, it could get expensive.
Missouri state law says that, through Sept. 25, Akin can still remove himself from the ballot by court order, which "shall be freely given." That's not a problem, apparently, unless someone has a good reason to object.
But the law also states that he would have to pay for any reprinting of ballots. And that could cost a nice chunk of change. It's not clear exactly how much, because the printing of ballots is split among 114 counties in the state and we don't yet know exactly when each county will print its ballots. The price depends on how much it costs to print ballots in each county and whether they print them before Akin would drop out.
The good news for Republicans is that we pretty much know about when the ballots will be printed, and it's not for a while yet. Ballots will be printed somewhere between Sept. 17, when the results of the presidential race are certified, and Sept. 22, when ballots need to be ready for overseas and military voters.
That gives Republicans almost another four weeks in which they can get him out and avoid re-printing costs.
But if Akin draws this process out to the final week, and most or all ballots are printed, we're talking about a cost of possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars to reprint the ballots.
Akin, a not-so-great fundraiser, had more than $500,000 in the bank as of July 22, a couple weeks before the primary. We're guessing, however, that he spent that down quite a bit to try to secure the nomination. And how much money is he going to be able to raise now, with the entire GOP establishment united against him?
That's where the national party comes in. Federal election law allows the National Republican Senatorial Committee to spend $840,000 in coordination with Akin -- money it could ostensibly cover the costs of reprinting.
The NRSC says it doesn't view the potential cost of reprinting ballots being any more than that.
Akin's continued candidacy is already expensive for Republicans from a P.R. standpoint. And if he really draws it out, his exit could also be expensive financially.
And that's if he even gets out, which looks more and more doubtful these days.