Now is the time for candor. No one can intelligently explain the national convention of a political party that:

Stops just short of advocating a National Commissioner of Light Petting and then honors, by invitation to sing the national anthem, a show business couple who are openly living together without benefit of either clergy or a right-thinking federal judge;

Follows almost slavishly Jack Kemp's novel lead and abstains completely from the revered polemics about compulsory unionism's interference with a textile worker's inalienagle right to choose brown, instead of pick, lungs:

Generates a report, while everyone else is busy at the Joe Louis Arena, that William Casey, Ronald Reagan's campaign manager, is secretly engaged in serious conversation with Henry Kissinger, former president Gerald Ford's principal second, allegedly attempting to redefine the presidency in some arcane business school jargon of chief executive officer (CEO, for the uninformed blue collars among us) and chief operating officer (COO?); and

Adopts without real dispute a platform announcing that the Soviets are all but holding confirmed winter reservations in the Florida Keys and simultaneously assures every sophomore in Topsiders and lime-colored Bermudas that he will never receive any personal correspondence from Uncle Sam that beings, "Greetings."

But we can be sure that within the Republican Party are two separate, and now unequal, denominations: the Native-Born and the Naturalized. Ronald Reagan is a Naturalized Republican -- not only first-generation Republican but a Republican since only 1962. The Native-Born Republicans are found mostly in New England, Pennsylvania, the Midwest and some parts of the West and have been there for ages.

Whether through effective family planning or unexpected primary defeats, the Native-Born Republicans have lost both numbers and influence within the party. Even in the traditional areas of Navtive strength and dominance, the only real Republican growth is reported not in the nicer towns, but in the older cities and the less fashionable suburbs. The Naturalized have been picking up their party papers in places like Buffalo and Queens, as well as all over Dixie and the Southwest.

At least since 1973, Gerald Ford has been the favoirite and the hero of the Native-Born and many more as well. John Anderson, to the degree that he draws Republican votes on Election Day, will draw them from the ranks of the Native-Born and not the Naturalized. If Gerald Ford were on the ticket, he would have denied Anderson virtually any Republican votes.

George Bush will be expected undoubtedly to keep many of the eastern Natives from leaving the GOP in November. A dyed-in-the-tweed Native-Born himself, Bush chose to leave Connecticut for a pre-Naturalized state, texas, but there to live and run successfully for Congress from the Houston district, one of the half-dozen most Republican in the nation. In spite of the apparent stylistic and substantive ambivalences of the Bush candidacy, he did well in primaries in predominantly Native Republican states: Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

The whole Ford fiasco provided proof, if any was needed, that the Reagan team is not ready for the World Series. The campaign showed little sense before closing night of even where the votes are in this election.

In 1976, Jimmy Carter did not win a single electoral vote in either the Rocky Mountain or Pacific time zones. Not much has happened since to suggest that this time Mr. Carter will improve his showing west of the Mississippi. Mr. Carter's victory, if there is to be one, must come from the states of the Eastern and Central time zones, where in 1976 he won 293 of his totla 297 electoral votes.

The overwhelming majority of voters in those areas who were watching the convention Wednesday night and who had to get up and go to work Thursday morning -- the potential Democratic defectors to Reagan -- went to sleep believing, as TV told them, that it would be a Reagan-Ford ticket. Some even work up to morning papers telling them the same thing.

Voters tell every pollster that they are craving strong, decisive leadership, the kind Carter has not been able to deliver satisfactorily. So what does the crack Reagan organization and campaign do but plant, cultivate and harvest in the hothouse of a convention hall doubts about their candidate's decisiveness and, more important, about his grasp of the presidency.

Throughout the televised negotiations, Bush, along with the other Seven Mentionables, was simply put on hold. Bush learned by broadcast that Ford, previsously has most forceful advocate for the job, was seemingly pulling a John Alden and becoming his almost invincible rival. So he decided to relax with friends and libations only to be called at 11:30 p.m. to be told that, among other things, the knocking at his door was the press. There are no reports that Reagan made calls to any of the other listed, and probably embarrassed, runners-up. Bad management.

Bush became "damaged goods" through the inept handling and indiscreet interviews surrounding the Ford dickering. The ticket's first joint press conference, instead of being the traditional joking, mutual admiration and what-were-you-wearing-when-you-found-out affair, turned testy about Bush's bruised feelings at being so publicly No. 2.

Nobody connected with the Republican campaign, including either of the candidates, apparently took the time to point out that it is not really so bad when, for the first time in American history, a former president is poised to run for vice president. Does anyone think that Henry Cabot Lodge would have been humiliated if Ike had expressed an interest in running on the second spot with Dick Nison in 1960 and then had decided not to? Doesn't seem that he would have.

Like Reagan, Bush has consistently been underrated by opponents and observers in this campaign -- just ask John Connally. Bush has many assets for the ticket. He put together a very able staff for his own campaign, one that enabled him to spend money and time judiciously. But it would be highly unlikely if the Reagan staff that has been jolted by both shakeups and criticism is particularly happy to be working in harness with the Bush people, regardless of how professional the Reagan people are. Just how pleased do you suppose Jody Powell and Frank Moore are to read all those stories praising the Mondale staff? Not very.

The Reagan campaign needs some of the virtues that the Republican platform so passionately trumpets hard work, discipline, strong leadership and, in a big hurry, a real new beginning.

But in spite of snafus by his staff, which one Reagan loyalist described as "capable of fouling up a two-car funeral," once again the remarkable instinct of Ronald Reagan rescued the campaign. Just as he did in Nashua in February when his perfectly appropriate and commonsunate outrage enabled him to carry both the evening and the New Hampshire primary three days later, Reagan again did the right thing in Detroit. He sized up the bad situation and seized the communications offensive by breaking precedent and going to the ball. He announced to his by-now befuddled delegates that there would be no Reagan-Ford buttons gracing their lapels. He told them, to cheers, that George Bush was his choice. His instinct had stopped the hemmorhaging and any further tarnishing of his image of directness and leadership.

But in the process, George Bush, a tested candidate, was jerked around. Bush, who has already seen combat this year and played to mostly favorable reviews, can stand a frisk by your favorite law enforcement agency and by the 1980 press corps. He knows what to expect and what the issues of the year are. He still brings energy and talent to the ticket, but with measurably less luster than he had had 12 hours earlier, before the botching and the broadcasting began.

The problem is obviously not with Reagan's instincts, which, reportedly over the strenuous objections of some staff, enabled the nominee to execute a bail-out superior to Lockheed's. No, contrary to the needles of Johnny Carson, it is not Jerry Brown who is the prototypical laid-back, unflappable and mellow California. Brown is quite driven and uptight, like Jimmy Carter. Reagan is the true Californian.