Religious right leader Ralph Reed: Romney improving with evangelicals

Ralph Reed, the powerful head of the socially conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition, said that Mitt Romney had made some inroads with evangelical Christians and other social conservatives since the start of the GOP campaign, but that the race was "wide open."

"I think it's a highly competitive race, very fluid, very topsy-turvy, and I don't think we've seen our last roller coaster ride yet," he said.

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"He has made inroads with [social conservatives]," Reed told The Hill at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. "In Iowa he got 14 percent of the evangelical vote. By the time he got to South Carolina he was getting 22 percent. By the time he got to Florida he had 34 percent. He doesn't need to win much more than a third of that vote to win the nomination. We assume that he did much worse Tuesday night and I think that's a fair assumption, but in fairness we don't have entrance or exit poll data."

Reed has remained neutral in the presidential race because he says there are supporters of all candidates in his group. Many social conservative leaders came out for Rick Santorum after his Iowa win.

He described Romney as a "nominal front-runner," pointing out that historically front-runners had polled at or around 50 percent, not in the mid-30s, in national polls.

"I think it's a highly fluid process. It's the most volatile Republican presidential nomination contest certainly in my lifetime," he said. "When you have eight contests and the front-runner wins three, and there are three different winners, there's no precedent for this."

Reed disagreed with some other social conservatives' claims that Romney will struggle to motivate religious voters to work hard for him in a general election. "I'm fully satisfied that whoever emerges from this process will be fully acceptable to our members and our members will be able to be totally engaged and supportive and active on behalf of the ultimate nominee," he said.

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