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Rising Warren weathers debate attacks

‘WE ARE LOSING’:Andrew Yang warned that candidates must not forget the economic disillusionment that paved the way for Donald Trump, highlighting job losses in Ohio


From left, US Senator Bernie Sanders, former US vice president Joe Biden and US Senator Elizabeth Warren gesture at the fourth Democratic presidential candidates debate in Westerville, Ohio, on Tuesday.

Photo: Reuters

Surging White House hopeful US Senator Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday faced a barrage of attacks from fellow Democrats at the party’s fourth presidential debate, cementing her status as a front-runner in the race to challenge US President Donald Trump.

The president himself loomed large as the dozen Democratic contenders trained their fire on him, calling for his impeachment and assailing a Syria troop pullout that former US vice president Joe Biden slammed as “shameful.”

“The impeachment must go forward,” said Warren, the progressive senator who is neck and neck with Biden at the head of the nomination race — a stance loudly echoed by her fellow Democrats onstage.

The impeachment brawl has dominated US politics for weeks, centered on Trump’s effort to press Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden.

Dragged into the scandal, Biden made clear that he believes Trump should be impeached — and pushed back hard on the president’s charge that he himself intervened in Ukraine to protect his son Hunter.

“My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong,” Biden said when asked about his son’s employment with a Ukrainian company, which even some Democrats have said held the appearance of a conflict of interest.

The Ukraine scandal thrust Biden into the spotlight, while 78-year-old liberal US Senator Bernie Sanders — the other heavyweight in the race — was under pressure to project fortitude two weeks after being sidelined by a mild heart attack.

However, it was Warren who weathered the sharpest attacks from her fellow Democrats — on everything from kitchen-sink issues such as healthcare and taxation to foreign policy and even business automation.

On health — a flashpoint issue for US voters — Warren faced stiff blowback from moderates who challenged her to come clean on how much her “Medicare for All” plan would cost.

“The difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something that you can actually get done,” US Senator Amy Klobuchar said, while Biden called Warren’s health policy “vague.”

Former US representative Beto O’Rourke accused Warren — who advocates a wealth tax on the biggest fortunes — of “punitive” policies and “pitting some part of the country against the other.”

Warren stood out in calling for the US to “get out of the Middle East” — while most of her rivals focused on assailing Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of northern Syria, which critics have said amounted to a green light for a Turkish assault on the US’ Kurdish allies there.

“This is shameful, shameful what this man has done,” Biden said of Trump’s Syria pullout, while US Senator Kamala Harris said that she would “stop this madness” if elected.

With the candidates in broad agreement on their opposition to Trump — as well as on issues such as the opioid crisis and income inequality — much of the back-and-forth was about performance rather than substance.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, whose numbers are improving in early voting states like Iowa, repeatedly grabbed the limelight by clashing with rivals on everything from foreign policy to healthcare to gun control.

When O’Rourke told Buttigieg it was time to ignore polls and be bold about buying back millions of assault weapons, Buttigieg snapped back: “I don’t need lessons from you on courage, political or personal.”

With 12 candidates on stage, including billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who was making his debate debut, each struggled to get heard.

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