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Reagan a candidate, at least on paper

President Reagan became a candidate for reelection in the eyes of the law Monday and his campaign headquarters opened on Capitol Hill. Mr. Reagan took the step by signing a letter to the Federal Elections Commission technically establishing his candidacy.

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The President, however, said he did not expect to announce formally whether he will run again until ''possibly the first of the year.'' Paul Laxalt, head of the Republican Party, said he sensed no reluctance on Reagan's part to make the move. But he said Reagan was waiting until Congress adjourns to make his announcement because ''as quickly as he announces . . . he loses some deggre of credibility" with Congress.

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