Competition for the hearts and votes of Christian conservatives is as wide open as the broader 2012 Republican contest, if a two-day gathering of political activists is any indication.

Virtually all of the Republican presidential contenders appeared before the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington, which ended Saturday. Each was warmly received by hundreds of delegates from across the country, though Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann generated the most enthusiastic response.

Social conservatives aren’t “any different from other primary voters. A huge number of them are just totally undecided,” said Ralph Reed, a longtime religious-right strategist who founded the sponsoring group, designed to bring evangelicals and “tea party” voters under the same tent.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s recent decision to pass up the 2012 campaign left a vacuum that remaining candidates are attempting to fill. Four years ago, Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist minister, won Iowa’s leadoff caucuses.

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