Most Important Issue of the Debate? Immigration

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Less than three weeks to go before the presidential election and the race is essentially tied. That could change as a result of Tuesday night's very spirited second presidential debate. A CNN poll is calling a clear Obama win 46-39, but broader election polls aren't out yet.

"The headlines will say Obama is back" after that "first terrible debate," says Olivier Knox, White House correspondent for Yahoo! News. He tells the Daily Ticker the key question now is whether Obama's performance persuaded undecided independent voters to vote for him.

Related: More from Yahoo!'s The Ticket

The economy figured prominently in last night's debate held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, Long Island. Romney argued that the economy hasn't improved under President Obama, citing high unemployment, a doubling of gasoline prices at the pump and many other economic statistics. He offered instead his "five-point plan" to grow the economy through more trade, more oil drilling, lower taxes and deficit cuts.

Obama repeated his plans to cut taxes for the middle class, boost manufacturing, provide more loans for college students and equalize pay for women in the workplace. He said one major reason gasoline prices have increased during his presidency is because the economy was in recession at the start of his term and demand was weak.

"It's conceivable that Gov. Romney could (bring down) gas prices" if he continued the same policies as President Bush which resulted in recession, Obama said.

Knox was at last night's debate and says there was nothing new from either candidate about their plans for the economy and Romney continued to refuse to offer details on his tax plan.

Related: For Economy, It Really Doesn't Matter Who Wins, Ritholtz Says

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center said that could add $5 trillion to the deficit over ten years, but the actual deficit amount would depend on how much money is raised from closing tax loopholes, which Romney has not identified.

Knox says Romney doesn't have to offer those specifics because "for many voters this is going to be a referendum on the president's policies" and Romney would "be crazy to run around the country saying my plan calls for ending your mortgage deduction, your child deduction. That would be a political killer."

Knox says the most important issue of last night's debate was immigration. "If you look at the major battleground states except Ohio…states like Florida, Nevada, Colorado the Obama campaign is heavily reliant on the Latino vote and this is one of the top issues."

Romney attacked Obama for failing to push through comprehensive immigration reform as he had promised during his first campaign for the presidency. "[But] the political reality is that Republicans made that impossible in Congress," says Knox.

Knox says Romney seemed to open the door to a compromise on the Dream Act, which would allow the children of undocumented immigrants the ability to obtain residency in the U.S. after graduating from college here.

Obama has championed the plan but it hasn't passed Congress. Last night Obama noted that Romney had promised to veto the Dream Act during the primary campaign and called Arizona's tough immigration law a model for the nation, and hired the architect of that law as a key advisor on immigration.

The next and final presidential debate is Monday, October 22, at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. The topic: foreign policy.

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