A team of U.S. political strategists is creating an Internet forum for debating hot-button issues, hoping to connect the politically obsessed the way MySpace.com hooks up hypersocial teens.

HotSoup.com launches in October, shortly before U.S. congressional elections, and aims to draw top political personalities as well as grass-roots community organizers to swap opinions and ideas.

Its creators hail from the Democratic and Republican camps, including Joe Lockhart, who was press secretary to President Bill Clinton for two years, and Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for President George W. Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004.

“There is a group of 30 to 40 million people in this country that are basically the (political) opinion drivers or influencers,” Dowd said during a conference call. “All of us saw a need and desire for a richer conversation.”

Ron Fournier, a former senior political writer for the Associated Press, will serve as editor-in-chief of the site.

Internet blogs and online forums played a key role in the 2004 presidential campaign, used by partisan commentators and by candidates themselves to build support, raise money and poke fun at rivals.

HotSoup will invite well-known political personalities to discuss agenda-leading topics, whether a debate on gay marriage or U.S. immigration issues.

HotSoup will also allow audience members to spin off their own topics into smaller forums and exchange reviews of books or speeches they find noteworthy, said Allie Savarino, an Internet advertising expert and one of the site’s founders. The site will seek advertising to finance its operation.

© 2006 Reuters