August is traditionally the slowest and most unpredictable month in the news cycle, as members of Congress leave Washington and head back to their districts.
The president usually takes a long vacation and things are pretty quiet on the political front – leaving room for political activists to dominate the news.
It was in August 2010 that Tea Party activists stormed Congressional town halls in their districts. In August 2005, anti-war activists led by Cindy Sheehan led the news by camping outside President Bush’s ranch in Texas.
But in August 2013, there were multiple groups looking to make headlines in the news.
Organizing for Action, Obama’s former campaign apparatus prepared their followers for “Action August,” which would focus on promoting Obamacare, immigration reform, global warming, and gun control. The buzz quickly faded, however, when the events were met with less than impressive turnouts.
Other pro-immigration reform activists managed to make modest headlines as they promoted their cause in town halls around the country, but they certainly failed to “win” the month of August, as the Washington Examiner’s Conn Carroll noted.
No one, however, made more noise than Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, one of the few Republicans that forgot to take the month off.
Proving his reputation as a fighter, Cruz kicked off a 60+ day campaign to defund Obamacare calling for conservatives everywhere to back the initiative proposed by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
Critics of the plan pushed back, including a strong contingent of Republicans including Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. But that only fueled Cruz’s momentum into the news cycle for the rest of the month.
Popular Republican conservatives backing the defund Obamacare proposal, such as Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Mike Lee R-Utah, all spent time promoting the idea, but it was Cruz that seized the national spotlight.
Throughout the month of August, Cruz was arguably the most visible Republican national figure on cable news with nearly a dozen appearances including a Sunday show appearance with CNN’s Candy Crowley.
Crowley, like many in the mainstream media, spiced up the news cycle by raising questions about the Texan Senator’s birth certificate and his 2016 prospects.
It didn’t hurt that Cruz also visited Iowa and New Hampshire to promote the defund Obamacare proposal, sparking further buzz about a possible run for president.
He also blanketed talk radio, earning high praise from conservative giants such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Mark Levin.
Cruz and his father appeared at town hall meetings sponsored by the Heritage Foundation to promote the idea of defunding Obamacare. As the Washington Examiner’s Byron York noted, Cruz captivated the crowd with his rhetoric, making the audience believe that defunding Obamacare was within their reach.
After two pro-Obamacare activists interrupted one town hall, Cruz handled them effectively, sending the video of the exchange viral on the web.
In the media, liberal pundits couldn’t stop talking about the conservative juggernaut because they were actually frightened by his success.
An exasperated Chris Matthews referred to Cruz as a “political terrorist.”
“He’s a slick spokesman and God help us if he gets to be anything more than the senator from Texas,” Former DNC chairman Howard Dean said.
Amidst the chaos, Cruz revealed in a TIME Magazine profile the secret to his success.
“There were two campaigns on which we modeled our campaign for Senate, and they were Obama’s campaign for President in 2008 and Marco Rubio’s campaign for Senate in 2010,” Cruz noted. “If you look at that 2008 Democratic primary, there was no more formidable, unstoppable candidate — other than an incumbent President — in modern times than Hillary Clinton. And Barack Obama ran a guerrilla campaign that empowered the people.”
As August drew to a close, the petition website for the Defund Obamacare proposal had earned nearly a million signatures from grassroots activists.
The success was largely due to Cruz’s media blitz throughout the month of August.
“There are a lot of Democrats and folks in the media who like their Republicans timid and house-trained to just sit quietly in the corner, to accept losing, and to stand for nothing,” Cruz said on Sean Hannity’s radio show, during his fight.
Critics of Cruz will point out that he and his followers are losing the fight to defund Obamacare, but one thing is clear: Cruz is a dominating force when it comes to rallying the grass roots.