After days of cryptic speculation from The Note, some questions were finally answered yesterday about just what it was that Ron Fournier's been up to since his departure from the Associated Press. Fournier has joined with a group of high-level political consultants to announce the creation of Hotsoup.com, which is being billed as "a forum that connects community leaders from across the country - what the sponsors call 'opinion drivers' - with national political leaders, experts and celebrities to debate issues and trends in politics, business, science and culture."
Those involved with the founding of Hotsoup include Fournier (who will serve as editor of the site once it debuts in October), Bush-Cheney '04 chief strategist Matthew Dowd (now strategizing for Gov. Schwarzenegger's reelection campaign); GOP media guru Mark McKinnon; former Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart; Carter Eskew and Michael Feldman, both Democratic advisers; and Allie Savarino, an "Internet advertising consultant."
As the LATimes puts it today "The effort is striking because it includes central figures from the last two presidential races, which sharply polarized the nation along lines of race, gender, cultural attitudes and geography. None of the website's organizers explicitly renounced the strategies they pursued in those campaigns, but they acknowledged unease with the fractures now evident in the public discourse on almost all major issues."
Matthew Dowd is quoted as saying "The perceived polarization that exists in this country today is not a good thing ... for each party ... or for the country's advancement." Lockhart adds "There is nobody who knows how broken the system is more than us. ... Everyone in the room could say they contributed to the polarization."
It will be very interesting to see where this effort goes. The group yesterday "struggled to describe just what the site ... will be and how it will reach the target audience," according to the Washington Post. That target audience will apparently be "people teaching Bible class, coaching Little League or volunteering in soup kitchens - and very interested in news." "But they were not clear on how they would find these local folks, especially since participants will not be paid. What the venture hopes to emulate is the social networking appeal of such sites as MySpace.com, in part by including discussions of books and perhaps movies."
Something to keep an eye on as the summer progresses - most importantly for our purposes, this is yet another response to the partisan schisms, and the reaction to it will be quite telling.