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Why Fox News is suspending Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum

Fox News announced Wednesday that it is suspending the contracts of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum.

By Staff writer / March 2, 2011

Fox News announced Wednesday that it has suspended the contracts of former House Speaker Gingrich and former Senator Santorum but is holding off on other potential 2012 presidential candidates

Alex Brandon/AP

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Apparently Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are making clear moves toward running for president, but Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and John Bolton? Not so much.

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That, at least, is the conclusion of Fox News, which announced Wednesday that it has suspended the contracts of former House Speaker Gingrich and former Senator Santorum but is holding off on the other three.

No serious contenders have made formal moves yet to run for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. But Fox News has decided that Gingrich and Santorum have both “signaled possible runs for the presidency,” Fox anchor Bret Baier said on the air late Wednesday morning.

IN PICTURES: Will these Republicans run in 2012?

Gingrich is expected to announce Thursday in Atlanta that he’s exploring a possible presidential campaign, though will not launch a formal exploratory committee. Santorum, who represented Pennsylvania in the Senate from 1995 to 2007, has indicated he will take part in Republican primary debates, which was enough for a Fox suspension.

The suspensions are to last until May 1, unless the two men notify Fox that they are not running. If they don’t indicate their intentions either way, their contracts will be terminated, Mr. Baier said.

“We can’t have Speaker Gingrich on our payroll while he is in the midst of an exploratory committee to see if he’s going to run for office,” Dianne Brandi, Fox News’s executive vice president for legal and business affairs, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a clear conflict.”

The other three potential 2012 candidates with Fox contracts have displayed decided ambivalence toward running for president. Mr. Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, says he’s thinking about running. But at the moment, he’s promoting his new book, “A Simple Government” – proof enough for Fox that he is not leaning enough toward running to take him off the air.

At a recent Monitor tea, Huckabee held forth at length about his personal financial concerns and the daunting fundraising challenge in going up against President Obama, leading this reporter to believe he probably will not run.

According to the L.A. Times, Huckabee makes about $500,000 a year hosting a talk show for Fox, and former Alaska Governor Palin makes $1 million a year. Gingrich reportedly makes nearly $1 million a year and Santorum less than $100,000 a year. A figure for Mr. Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations, was unavailable.

Palin’s intentions have indeed been unclear. As the GOP’s 2008 vice-presidential nominee, she burst onto the national stage and has remained there ever since, proving herself to be a prolific fundraiser and charismatic speaker. Polls show she’d be a top-tier contender for the GOP nomination in 2012. She recently hired a chief of staff, leading some to think she may be organizing for a campaign, but there are no indications she’s taken serious steps beyond that.

“She hasn’t yet shown a serious intention to form an exploratory committee,” Ms. Brandi told the L.A. Times.

Federal Communications Commission guidelines point toward a network severing financial ties with someone running for federal office, as his or her time on the air could be construed as free advertising.

Another potential 2012 candidate with TV ties is real estate magnate Donald Trump, host of the NBC reality show “The Apprentice.” At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr. Trump said he would make a decision about running for president by June. Apparently NBC does not believe Trump’s public ruminations represent a conflict thus far.

One Republican who has launched a presidential exploratory committee – former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain – also had a talk radio show in Atlanta, but he ended it last month.

IN PICTURES: Will these Republicans run in 2012?

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