As President, Ronald Reagan has always provoked a wide range of strong reactions in Central America - from ecstatic society matrons who can only be described as Reagan ''groupies'' to the rabidly pro-Sandinista 16-year-old boy in a Managua slum who places Mr. Reagan somewhere between Adolf Hitler and the devil.
The President will have a hard time living up to the expectations of some of his supporters here. Conservatives - not just in Nicaragua, but throughout the area as well - fully expect him to save the region from communism by sending in the Marines to topple Nicaragua's Sandinista regime and go on to crush the guerrillas in El Salvador.
For the left, Reagan is the incarnation of all they see as evil, repressive, and imperialistic about the United States. The main question preoccupying them is how far will ''that crazy man'' go. Will he follow what they see as his natural inclinations and invade, or will he be stopped by US public opinion? The one bright spot the left sees on the horizon is a belief that Reagan's fiscal policies will throw the US into a massive economic recession during his next term, leaving it too preoccupied with its own problems to worry about Central America.
In Honduras and Costa Rica many middle-of-the-roaders and some conservatives worry that overly aggressive US policies might plunge their nations into a regional maelstrom.