Others have made the comparison between the presidential races of 1980 and 2012 before; I would only add that the first debate is another way in which those races are similar.
A transformational candidate (Carter) becomes a disappointing president. He faces a former Democrat, a labor leader turned conservative governor (Reagan). The incumbent’s campaign decides it can’t win on the No. 1 issue — the economy — so it turns to disqualifying the opponent. This strategy succeeds well until the two candidates debate. The demonized former governor comes across as nice and reasonable. The main underpinning of the incumbent slips away, as does the race.
One ray of hope in this otherwise depressing historical analogy is this: Jimmy Carter debated Ronald Reagan only once. At least Barack Obama gets another chance.