George Bush, former Central Intelligence Agency director and onetime chairman of the Republican National Committee, has become the first person to qualify for federal matching campaign funds for the 1980 presidential election.

Bush, a Republican who continues to describe himself as an "unannounced candidate," announced his feat yesterday on "issues and Answers" (ABC, WJLA). The announcement was followed by an official press release from James A. Baker III, chairman of the George Bush for President Committee.

"I'm enormously pleased with this breakthrough," said Baker. "Ordinarily, it takes several months for a campaign committee to reach this goal, but the Bush committee has done it in three weeks. To my knowledge, that breaks all records."

To qualify for the federal campaign aid, candidates -- announced or otherwise -- must raise over $5,000 in each of 20 states through individual contributions of no more than $250.

Baker said the Bush money was raised "through personal contacts with people across the country," instead of through the frequently used direct-mail appeal.

"This is a definite signal of the strength of the Bush candidacy," Baker said.

Bush agreed. The accomplishment shows "a breadth of support" for his undeclared candidacy, he said in the television interview. "It shows a significant development -- that I can draw support from across the country."

Bush said he wants "very much to be president," but added that he will keep his undeclared status for about three more months.

"There's a time to prepare and a time to declare, and right now we're preparing," Bush said.

He is not alone. Yesterday, announced Republican candidate John B. Connally was telling a "Meet the Press" (NBC, WRC) panel that he is prepared to do battle with those who criticize him for having left the Democratic Party six years ago to join forces with then-President Nixon, whom he served as secretary of the treasury.

"I am reminded of the words of Winston Churchill," Connally said in a solemn voice. "Winston Churchill said: 'Some men change their principles for their party. Others change their party for their principles.'

"I feel I am in the latter category," he said.

Connally, who announced his candidacy last week, said he expects to qualify for federal matching campaign funds "in a matter of four days' time."

"As a matter of fact, contributions are coming in from all over the country, voluntary contributions. We haven't even had time to check them, to see whether we qualify. But I suspect we are very close to it," Connally said. He said he is using a directmail appeal in his campaign.

Both Connally and Bush shied away from any direct attack on President Carter. Bush, however, did fire a political warning shot in the air.

"One of his big problems today is the perception of inability to cope," Bush said of Carter. He said he sees no similar perceptual difficulties for himself because, "I have got the experience."