Even the most optimistic supporters of Ronald Reagan had to admit that he had a bad week.

They are now spending a lot of time with the candidate trying to get his campaign back on the track.

"Ronnie, tell us again exactly what happened."

"Weren't you guys there?"

"No, we were mending your fences from the week before. We thought it was safe to let you out of the hotel room by yourself on Labor Day."

"Well, I was making a speech at the Michigan State Fair and I was going along fine until I saw this fellow in a Carter mask in the audience. I got so darned mad, I ad-libbed that while I was in Michigan Carter was opening his campaign down in the city that gave birth to the Ku Klux Klan."

"You were talking about Tuscumbia, Alabama?"

"I guess so. I heard somebody say it on the evening news."

"That wasn't very smart, Ronnie. We need to win the South. You got them all upset down there."

"I didn't, darn it. Carter did. He's trying to make a political issue of it."

"What other kind of issue would he make of it, Ronnie?"

"Well, I don't see why I can't ad-lib when I want to . It's no fun reading the same speech all the time."

"Ronnie, every time you ad-lib you put your foot in your mouth. That is why everything is written out for you."

"You mean when a guy wears a Carter mask at one of my political rallies, I have to keep my mouth shut?"

"Ronnie, remember when you used to make movies?"

"Yes, and I got the girl in many of them. Every time they write about my movie career they say I never got the girl."

"We know you got the girl. That's beside the point. The important thing was that you worked from a script, and in the movies you could only say what was in the script, right?"

"I don't know what you're driving at."

"We want you to stick to our script. We want you to pretend you're making a movie about campaigning for president of the United States, and we want you to read the lines just as they were written."

"I didn't say Carter was a member of Ku Klux Klan."

"We know you didn't, Ronnie. But you gave Carter an opportunity to say you insulted the South. Seven governors have called in to protest your remarks. The Ku Klux Klan has nothing to do with the election in November. We've got to hit Carter hard on the recession."

"You mean the depression."

"It's not a depression, Ronnie. That's something else you said that wasn't in the script."

"If I'm going to be president of the United States, I should be able to think for myself."

"It's too dangerous, Ronnie. Every time you think for yourself you lose votes. Let us do the thinking for you -- at least until you get elected."

"So what do I do about the South?"

"We're working on the script now. We'll say yur remarks were misinterpreted, and what you said about the Ku Klux Klan came out wrong, and Carter is trying to exploit the situation. Then we'll attack Andy Young and Patricia Harris for bringing up the Ku Klux Klan in the first place. Do you think you can do it without throwing in your own two cents?"

"I suppose so, but I sure would like to go on the attack instead of defending everything I say all the time."

"You can go on the attack, Ronnie, just as long as you stick to the script.

If you don't like the lines, tell one of us and we'll change them for you. But no more surprises. Promise?"

"I guess I can do it, but it's not going to be fun."

"Okay, let's just test you. I'm going to put on a Jimmy Carter mask. Now what do you say?"

"Where's your dumb brother Billy?"

"No, Ronnie, that is not what you would say. Let's start all over again. Suppose you were making 'King's Row' and . . ."