If Ronald Reagan had been around this election season the practically canonized former president would have dominated the field and already cleared most of it.

Say what you will for his approach to governance and his feel-good economics which appeased the middle class while bolstering the fortunes of the big earners— he played well for his time.

Today California’s (and the nation’s) GOP is faced with a much different set of challenges which are more personal and destructive to a party badly divided in its views and in disarray over the best choice to lead the nation.

In fact much of Reagan’s savvy, upbeat, pragmatic, more embracing yet non-polemic Conservatism is barely recognizable amongst the slew of would-be Oval Office holders who are center stage in the current campaign which features everything from feckless populists to bombastic flame-throwers.

Yet almost to the person, the remaining candidates (Rick Perry and Scott Walker having already exited with more sure to follow) have claimed the Reagan mantle as if they are each and all (excepting Donald Trump) his natural successor.

One is reminded of the 1988 Vice Presidential debate when Texas’s Sen. Lloyd Bentsen skewered his hapless Indiana counterpart, Sen. Dan Quayle, who had compared himself with John F. Kennedy, with the immortal zinger, “Senator, “I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.”

The latest dig at the Reagan imitators occurred Monday night when Late Show host, Stephen Colbert, reminded GOP candidate,Ted Cruz, that by present day litmus tests, Reagan was less conservative then has been suggested.

“Reagan raised taxes and endorsed an amnesty program for illegal immigrants” said Colbert—two of the big no-no’s in the Republican playbook which most likely could have throttled a Reagan nomination today.

Colbert than asked Cruz, “Could you agree with Reagan on those two things?” “No, of course not, he responded, pointing out that Reagan later signed the largest tax cut in history.

To which Colbert countered, “But when conditions changed in the country, he (reversed himself) when revenues did not match the expectations, so it’s a matter of compromising,”  “Will you be willing to compromise with the other side?” Cruz did not have a direct answer.

This exchange is at the heart of the dilemma for Republicans. Pulled by their Tea Party partisans and a give-no-ground conservative base, much farther Right than many wish to go, the GOP establishment is losing the battle to bring some discipline to its ranks.

Neither among the fractious candidates nor the Congressional Republicans as they mull over shutting down the government again is much compromise readily foreseeable, and Speaker, John Boehner could be the next victim.

Reagan, more a fence mender than a wall builder, would most likely be appalled at the conduct now on display and offended by the comparisons.

This internal divisiveness will practically ensure that the GOP contest which is all about amassing the largest number of delegates before next summer is being animated by forces that are driving ever greater wedges within its ranks.

With no Reagan in the wings and given the late June 7th primary in this Bluest of states, California is most likely once again consigned to a secondary role in the national election.

However, there is speculation that the California GOP’s disavowal of a strictly “winner take all” system whereby the majority of delegates are selected by the winners in each of the fifty three Congressional Districts could favor the most popular and best organized candidate.

As of now the principal beneficiary of all this turmoil is Donald Trump whose blatant disregard for all GOP protocols includes one of Reagan’s most famous injunctions: “Thou shall not speak ill of any Republican”.  The “Donald” shows no sign of taking that vow.

Consequently the choice for the Party’s high command is finding a way to jettison Trump or continue to endure his antics with the fervent hope that his act may eventually wear thin—a prediction which his more genteel and closest rival, Ben Carson, is making.

There does not appear to be any savior at hand with the possible exceptions of Florida’s Marco Rubio who has distinguished himself at least in Republican eyes with his seeming mastery of foreign affairs; a somewhat resurgent Chris Christie; and Carly Fiorina, an implausible contender just weeks ago whose impassioned performance in the second debate going head-to-head with Trump has helped lift her poll numbers considerably.

Ohio governor, John Kasich, the acknowledged winner of the first debate was, along with Jeb Bush, practically a non-entity in Los Angeles, although his moderate positions are anathema to the Trump/Ted Cruz supporters who are the new Angry Right.

In the duel for California delegates, Fiorina, a millionaire in her own right and a periodic resident of the state, could give Trump a run for his money notwithstanding her less than stellar showing in her losing 2010 Senate race against the retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Her attraction as a counterweight to Hillary Clinton should Clinton get the nomination has not been lost on the party decision makers and could certainly earn her a spot on the ticket though it is difficult envisioning the plucky former HP CEO as a running mate for Trump who has done his best to excoriate her and women in general.

Meanwhile if the modern version of the Republican Party which bears little resemblance to the one fashioned a half century ago by “the big Gipper” wants to recapture the White House, it has plenty of its own house-cleaning to do first.