Washington (CNN) – Someone pushed a baseball and a ballpoint pen at Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, through the scrum of reporters' note pads and tape recorders as she was chased up an escalator.
Her heels clicked as her staff hustled her out of the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference at the glitzy Renaissance hotel in Washington, DC.
Bachmann didn't look fazed as reporters pressed in and ran along side her on the stairs. When she got to the top of the floor, she grinned as wide as always and paused to field a few questions.
"Is there a national question?" she wondered aloud.
"Can someone win the nomination the way Sarah Palin is running now or do they need to be here at events like this?" a reporter asked.
"Someone will win the nomination...but the main competitor here is Barack Obama," the congresswoman responded. She too has been mulling a run for the White House like many of the other speakers on the conference's line up.
The conference is the brain child of Ralph Reed, a political operative known as the evangelical whisperer for his ability to rally support among Christians for candidates.
Reed stood back stage smiling and chatting with VIPs as one speaker after another took the podium.
"I'm a preacher. You're a politician!" one man loudly laughed and slapped Reed on the shoulder.
There are a thousand or so registered attendees here at the two day conference, organizers said.
The attendees are influential for their ability to open up their check books and activate to get behind a candidate and do the hard work behind the scenes –making phone calls, stuffing envelopes and pushing their friends to support a candidate.
Look no further for evidence of their influence then the long list of Republican presidential nominee hopefuls. They are almost all here.
Jon Huntsman took the podium shortly before lunch. Reed said in his introduction the former Ambassador to China under President Barack Obama was fluent in Mandarin but promised to speak in English. Huntsman took to the podium and started speaking his remarks in Chinese to loud chuckles.
He burnished his resume before the crowd, reminding them of all the pro-life legislation he had signed as Governor of Utah. He told them about his adopted daughter and how when asked who rescued her when she was an orphan she answered, "Jesus." He also listed his fiscal conservative bona fides. At the end of his speech, the crowd rose to their feet and cheered.
It is equally interesting what Huntsman did not mention. The only veiled reference he made to his last boss, President Obama, was, "I lived overseas four times. Don't worry I have a U.S. birth certificate." He also did not mention his faith directly. Huntsman is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or the Mormon church.
Brian Brahorich came to the conference from Georgia where he attends Georgia Southern University and is a member of the Georgia College Republicans. As a Baptist he said his faith teaches him Mormonism is a cult but he said that won't influence his vote. He said he was looking forward to hearing both Mitt Romney and Huntsman address the conference.
"Just because someone's faith is different or skin color or ethnicity doesn't mean they can't do the job well and they should take the blame for it or be criticized for it," he said. "Whoever is on that ballot besides Barack Obama is going to have my vote."
"I don't think their religion should even come into question," Elliott Echols said. He heads the state chairmen of the Georgia association of College Republicans and is a conservative Christian. "I don't know much about the Mormon religion. I've heard a lot about some of the practices out in Utah, but I don't know if Romney has the same. I know he has one wife. Whether the rumors are or aren't true I think Romney's record speaks for itself. I have no problem with it."
The Mormon church's official position has long been against polygamy, but misconceptions about the church could plague candidates Huntsman and Romney.
But Romney and Huntsman still remain popular here.
Autograph hunters said a signed Romney photo was the prize of the day. It will fly off the shelves on eBay at $100 a pop they say.
The hunters are waiting on the outside of the press scrums. As Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi exits stage left, he chats with the press, then they pounce with a half dozen photos glossy Barbour photos, a polite smile and felt tipped pen.
These aren't Republican fan boys, though they are in suits and red ties. They are strictly entrepreneurs.
Bachmann did end up signing a few baseballs which they said will fetch $75 today.
"It's pure Americana. Presidents always throw out the first pitch. If she wins the presidency that ball will be worth $700," said one young hunter who didn't want to give his name because he didn't want others to cramp his market share.
It's a common theme here, try to be, see, or hook in to the next would be Republican nominee. Any way you shake it, today the road to the Republican nomination goes through Washington, DC and Ralph Reed.