WASHINGTON -- Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed said Thursday that conservatives are excited to support Mitt Romney as their Republican presidential nominee, in part because he changed his views on abortion.
During a three-day Faith & Freedom Coalition event in Washington, D.C., Reed said that contrary to talk of conservatives being underwhelmed by Romney, he and many others are eager to back the former Massachusetts governor.
"He's come our way, you know?" Reed, chairman of the coalition, told The Huffington Post. "The message seems to be when somebody changes their views on something, so that they now agree with you, that you should attack them. I'm in the business of making converts. Like, if you were to come up to me and say, 'I used to have a different view on an issue, now I agree with you,' I would embrace you. I wouldn't attack you. So that's our attitude."
Asked specifically how Romney has changed his views, Reed promptly replied, "On the life issue. He came our way."
It's no secret that Romney was pro-abortion rights earlier in his career. He said abortion should be "safe and legal" as a Senate candidate in 1994. In 2002, when running for governor of Massachusetts, he reached out to abortion rights groups with promises to be "a good voice" on the issue. It wasn't until 2005 that he declared he was anti-abortion and, two years later, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos during a Republican debate, "I changed my position.”
As a 2012 presidential candidate, Romney has been doubling down in his most recent standpoint: In February, he sparred with President Barack Obama's rule requiring some religiously affiliated employers to include contraception in employees' health care coverage, referring to birth control as "abortive pills." And when the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced it was pulling its funding from Planned Parenthood earlier this year, Romney chimed in and said the government should also cut off money to Planned Parenthood.
Romney is giving remarks at the Faith & Freedom Coalition event, via teleconference, on Saturday. Reed conceded that Romney has "still got some work to do in this community," but said he didn't think conservatives attending the event were looking for him to say anything in particular.
"He just needs to deliver his message," Reed said.
Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), both of whom have been floated as possible running mates for Romney, were among the speakers during Thursday's events. Reed said he is excited about the prospect of either one becoming vice president, but wouldn't say which one he'd prefer.
"It's Mitt Romney's choice and I think he's a man of good judgment," he said. "I defer to his judgment."