Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) told the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday that “it’s time for the Republican Party to stop talking about Ronald Reagan and start acting like him.”

“Conservatives can’t afford to win elections by default. We need to win elections with a mandate,” the Tea Party senator said, stressing that it’s not a strategy to “let President Obama’s failures preserve a Republican majority in the House and win one in the Senate.”

“That counsel is unworthy of the party of Lincoln and Reagan, and unequal to the task before us,” Lee added.

“Most of the speakers you’ll hear this week will come to inspire you, or flatter you, or claim solidarity with you. I have come to challenge you. The work remaining before us, this year and for the next three years, is the most important work conservatives have faced in a generation. It is the work of redefining our movement, rebuilding our party, and rescuing our nation. That work will not be easy, or fun, or glamorous. Most of the time it won’t even be noticed. But it is essential to our success.”

Lee said if conservatives don’t push an agenda that addresses the opportunity deficit, “we will lose in 2014, and 2016, and beyond. We will lose, and we will deserve to lose.”

“We can never forget that in 1976, anti-establishment conservatives found a leader for the ages – yet they still lost. By 1980, they had developed an agenda for their time – and they won,” he continued.

“America’s real problem of inequality,” he said, is “not the income gap between the rich and the poor, but the opportunity gap between Washington, D.C and everybody else.”

The party, he said, needs to focus on “concrete, specific proposals to help lower-income families overcome welfare, improve education and job training, and rescue at-risk communities with too few jobs, too few fathers, and too little hope.”

“To build a new conservative reform party, that party needs this new conservative reform agenda,” Lee said. “…Become the kind of thoughtful, positive, principled conservative our movement wants, the Establishment fears, and our country needs. Before conservatives can celebrate victory, we first must deserve it.”