Washington (CNN)–"We think it's a great weekend but it's not just about a confab," Ralph Reed said as he took a break from hustling from one end of the ballroom to the next after wrapping up interviews with ABC and CNN's Eliot Spitzer. Day one at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference was a big success, Reed said.
"The purpose of this conference is to build the organization. It's to train people to teach people and then they go back to their communities and keep growing and building."
Potential presidential nominees glad-handed and polished their stump speeches in front of the crowd Reed claimed could be as high as 1,400-1,500, despite a number of empty chairs the during the speeches.
"There are people here who go back to the Christian Coalition days. Then there are people who are Tea Party folks, and they've been involved in the Tea Party movement but they've never been involved in an organization like this. It's more regimented," Reed said. "We have state organizations. We have county chapters. We have an actual plan that we're executing to turn out the vote and turn people out to influence public policy."
Reed's coalition is ramping up its operations with a new director in Iowa and a new executive director in Atlanta. It is also bolstering its presence in key presidential primary states. The coalition is reaching out to social conservatives and fiscal conservatives.
Reed knows the Republican hopefuls need him and the base he can still light up.
The two candidates with the most to gain here could be the two Mormon candidates: Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman.
Romney's faith was a big issue for evangelicals when he ran in 2008. Reed doesn't think it will be as big of an issue this time around. "It's going to matter to the voters whom it's going to matter to. But I think he's going to get a fair hearing. Right now if you look most of the published polls, he's leading the race."
"In 2008, Romney got about 1 out every 5 evangelical votes. He really only has to overperform on that number a little bit. He needs to get about a third of the evangelical vote. If he does that and does as well as he's capable of doing among all the non-evangelical Republicans he can win the nomination. The idea is not that you need to win a majority of the evangelicals to be the nominee. You don't. George W. Bush didn't win the majority of evangelicals in 2000. I was there," Reed says.
"There's a path to the nomination for him. He's in no way out of the game because he's a Mormon."
And of the Romney campaign, he says, "They know if we come to places like this, we're going to get our fair share. And if we get our fair share we've got our shot."