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Thursday night will be the fifth one-on-one debate between Sanders and Clinton. (Photo: Disney|ABC/flickr/cc)

From Fracking to Wall Street Greed, Key Issues Up for Debate in New York

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton set to face off in what could be the 'feistiest debate yet'

Deirdre Fulton

Democratic presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will face off Thursday night at 9 pm EDT in a critical debate ahead of the April 19 New York primary.

CNN says the debate in Brooklyn—the fifth one-on-one between Sanders and Clinton, but the first since Miami on March 9th—"could be the feistiest yet."

As NPR's Tamara Keith noted Thursday, in the lead-up to debates, "it sometimes seems like candidates are planting bread crumbs hoping the moderator follows them." She offered fracking as an example, pointing to Sanders' recently released "No Fracking Anywhere" advertisement.

Indeed, 350 Action predicted Thursday afternoon that "fracking is expected to be front and center as [the] candidates meet in New York."

The Hill reported on Wednesday that "Sanders has taken a firmer line against the drilling practice than the Democratic front-runner, calling for it to be banned nationwide." That's important, the publication explained, because "[a]nti-fracking forces in New York are more organized than elsewhere in the country."

Meanwhile, said 350 Action spokesperson Linda Capato, Jr., "Clinton has ramped up plans to tackle climate change, and yet she's still referring to natural gas as a potential bridge fuel. Tonight's debate will be pivotal for candidates to take strong stances against fossil fuel interests. No matter how you slice it, natural gas is a fossil fuel, and the only safe place for fossil fuels is in the ground."

The candidates might also tackle the issue of nuclear power, given that the Indian Point plant is just 25 miles north of New York City. Sanders has called for the accident-prone plant to be shut down, while Clinton has called for increased oversight but not closure of the facility.

Clinton is leading in recent polls of New York voters, but Sanders has been closing the gap. One recent poll showed him trailing Clinton 52-42 percent, up from 55-34 percent last month.

Another issue that is likely to come up on Thursday night is gun control. The Washington Post reports: "Clinton could also return to a familiar line of attack against Sanders: that he has been too supportive of pro-gun legislation. That argument has special resonance in New York City. Clinton has argued that Sanders, representing a mostly white, mostly rural state, has been slow to recognize the damage guns do in cities."

The international NGO Global Witness, meanwhile, is calling for all presidential candidates to "publicly address the widespread problem of secret companies in the U.S. and corruption exposed in the Panama Papers and outline their own plans for reform."

Indeed, given their location near the global hub of finance, Clinton's Wall Street ties and the matter of "too big to fail" banks are also likely to arise.

And CNN suggests that President Barack Obama's admission this week—that the 2011 U.S.-backed toppling of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was his "worst mistake"—might find its way into Thursday's discussion.

"Sanders, for his part, has more broadly targeted Clinton's views on regime change," CNN reports. "This tension could resurface Thursday night if Clinton chooses to defend Obama administration's engagement in Libya."

Following Thursday night's debate, Sanders will leave the U.S. for two days to appear at an academic conference at the Vatican devoted to themes of economic and social justice.

Meanwhile, Clinton is also leaving New York on Friday, for a high-rolling fundraiser hosted by George Clooney and his wife, human rights attorney Amal Clooney.

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