The game of footsie played by Newt Gingrich this week has apparently exhausted the patience of Fox News, at which Gingrich works as an occasional contributor.  Earlier today, Fox anchor Bret Baier announced that the network would suspend both Gingrich and fellow contributor Rick Santorum until they clarified their intent to run for office in 2012:

Both, Baier said, “have signaled possible runs for the presidency” and it “is Fox policy” for them to be suspended.

The suspensions will be lifted on May 1 if they notify the network by then that they are not planning to run. If they do not announce one way or the other by the the deadline, their contracts will be terminated, Baier said.

“This is the announcement that’s being made today,” Baier said, but “it does not preclude other announcements that may be made in the future” about other Fox employees who are flirting with White House runs.

Of the two, Gingrich and his team have been the more aggressive. Gingrich yesterday denied that he would announce the start of a presidential exploratory committee this week, reported by ABC and National Journal, but even the denial sounded more associated with timing than intent. Santorum’s inclusion seems more odd. While he has talked openly about the potential of a presidential run, he hasn’t been nearly as aggressive about it, nor has he done a lot of visible organizing for a presidential run.

What does this say about the intent of Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee?  Both are also high-profile contributors to Fox, and Huckabee has his own show on the network.  Both ran in the 2008 cycle, and both continue to organize for something.  Baier was careful to say that this does not preclude further announcements, but it would seem a little odd if Fox bounced Gingrich and Santorum for potential presidential runs that will be long-shots at best while continuing to employ two potential front-runners without bothering to first ask about their plans for 2012.

Update: My friend Tom Tradup, VP of News and Talk Programming at Salem Radio Network (Hot Air’s parent company), has an offer for Gingrich, who makes regular appearances on the Bill Bennett Show.  Tom sent this over to me at 2 pm ET:

“I’m a regular FOX viewer, but this is truly bizarre and goofy development,” states Tom Tradup, V.P. of News & Talk Programming at the Salem Radio Network. “Only someone with a view of the world similar to that of an ant isn’t aware that Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are considering White House bids in 2012. So are Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee…but FOX News Channel isn’t suspending them.”

Tradup indicated that until Senator Santorum announces a formal bid for the Presidency in 2012 or any other year, SRN will continue to use him as both a guest host and an SRN News contributor. He noted that the same was true of previous MORNING IN AMERICA guest host Michael Steele, who remained with SRN until he was elected Chairman of the Republican National Committee in January 2009.

Tradup added:  “If Speaker Gingrich needs an outlet for his commentaries and observations, our phone lines are open and we’d be happy to take his call.”

Lines are open, Mr Gingrich …