That's right, James Earl Carter, over Ronald Wilson Reagan. And Carter grew that lead into October. So, does it make sense to compare Romney/Obama with Reagan/Carter? Reagan had an electoral blowout over Carter and won the popular vote with a 9 point gap over Carter. Independent John Anderson siphoned off about 6 percent of the popular vote. Consider this, per Wikapedia:
Arguably the most important event of the entire 1980 presidential campaign was the second presidential debate, which was held one week to the day before the election (October 28). On October 26, two days prior to the debate, Gallup released a survey that suggested that Carter was leading Reagan by a margin of 47% to 39%. Over the course of two hours, the entire race changed drastically, and what was considered an extremely tight race with the President slightly ahead became a comfortable Republican victory for Reagan. Nothing of that magnitude has happened since in any televised confrontations.
Historians debate whether that debate really did turn the tide. But the reality is that shortly before the election Carter had a comfortable lead in the polls and nobody is sure what shook voters to their senses at the last moment. And as for Anderson's impact, it's believed if he was going to hurt anyone, it would be Reagan. Whether or not a single debate turned the tide in 1980, I do believe the debates, both presidential and vice presidential, will be critical here. Reagan looked more presidential than the president. It is what Mitt Romney needs to do this fall.