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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a rising star in national politics, presented himself here Thursday as a fresh face for Republicans “demoralized” after last year’s elections.

His victory aside, the Texas conservative stressed in his keynote address at the Cuyahoga County GOP’s annual Lincoln Day dinner that the party must better articulate its ideals.

“You want to know what happened last election cycle? We didn’t win the argument for the American people,” Cruz said while pacing easily on stage in a hotel ballroom. “The Democrats’ story is the Republicans are the party of the rich, the Democrats are the party of everybody else. And if that’s the narrative people believe, we’ll never win another national election.”

Cruz, 42, has established himself as a top Republican prospect not even two months into his first term as senator. The son of a Cuban father and Irish mother, he is viewed alongside Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, also of Cuban descent, as a leader who can help the GOP make strides with the fast-growing segment of Hispanic voters. Hispanics helped fortify President Barack Obama’s re-election.

In a three-pronged assessment of his party’s 2012 failures, Cruz argued that the party should position itself stronger with minorities, young voters and “the 47 percent.” That third group was one Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney spoke of dismissively during a speech at a fundraiser surreptitiously recorded and released in the final weeks of last year’s campaign.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, equated Obama supporters with 47 percent of the country who “believe that they are victims” and “entitled” to government assistance. Cruz lamented that Romney’s “ill-advised” comment fostered a “toxic” narrative for Republicans.

But Cruz saved his sharpest words for Obama, arguing his ideas are economically harmful.