HotsoupTaking a lead from youth-orientated social network MySpace, a group of US political heavyweights have announced the launch of HOTSOUP - an internet forum for the politically obsessed.

The site aims to be the first online community to capture top-draw political figures and put them in direct contact with up to 30 million local community opinion formers.

The site has 10 co-founders from across the US political spectrum.

They include Joe Lockhart, Bill Clinton's former press secretary, Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004, and Carter Eskew, chief strategist for Al Gore's 2000 campaign.

The founders estimate that one in 10 people has significant influence over the other nine members of the population in aspects of their lives as diverse as how to vote, where to eat and even what to buy.

Their intention is to bride the gap that separates the political classes from the rest of the US population, by directly talking to those members of communities who have influence over their friends and neighbours and directly addressing the issues that affect them.

Ron Fournier, former chief political writer for the Associated Press, will act as editor-in-chief when the site launches in October.

Joe Lockhart said: " will be the place policy makers and political elites get to make their case to a public who increasingly feels shut out of the entire process.

"But to be heard, they'll have to check their partisan spin at the door and address the issues the community decides are important.

"The community will demand constructive debate and real solutions to real problems, not the contrived debates and fact-challenged banter that paralyses our political and policy discourse."

"This is about granting equal access to all parties," said Mark McKinnon, a co-founder and former Bush adviser.

"At HOTSOUP, a parent may question a congressman about national education policy, while a local investor might talk shop with a leader in international finance."

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