IVYLAND, Pa. — Ivanka Trump hit the campaign trail Thursday for her father in this crucial battleground state and did everything in her power to avoid defending Donald Trump for lewd behavior and allegations of sexual assault that have torpedoed his presidential run.
At three “Coffee with Ivanka” events in voter-rich counties around Philadelphia, she never mentioned the scandal. She steered clear of confronting the 2005 videotape that caught Mr. Trump, the GOP presidential nominee, boasting that his celebrity status gave him license to kiss and fondle women he meets or the four women who have come forward to say he did it to them.
As she exited the events, Ms. Trump ignored questions shouted by reporters about the tape and the allegations of groping.
The friendly crowds made it easy for Ms. Trump. They used question-and-answer sessions to lob softball questions about what it’s like being on the campaign trail with her brothers and the importance of increasing the role of women in business.
At the Spring Mill Manor banquet and ballroom facility here in Bucks County, many Trump supporters said she didn’t need to defend her father. They blamed the news media with drumming up the sex stories to boost Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who has gained in polls despite Mr. Trump’s strong debate performance Sunday.
“We believe that the media is misrepresenting everything and they are bias toward Hillary,” said Genevieve McCunney, 66, a retired nurse who was among the approximately 225 people at the event.
They questioned the timing of the revelations — with 25 days until the election — and why the women would wait a decade or 30 years to say they were groped by the New York businessman, who has been celebrity for most of his life.
Still, the unspoken scandal hung heavy in the banquet hall. Ms. Trump gave a glimpse of its weight on her when she talked about her experience getting involved in politics for the first time.
“The whole thing is bizarre and vicious — vicious,” said Ms. Trump, who is a business titan in her own right. “I thought I had cut my teeth in New York real estate but this is a blood sport.”
In her opening remarks, Ms. Trump said she is not a surrogate for the Trump campaign.
“I’m a daughter so it’s weird when I see myself described as a surrogate,” she said. “I’m my father’s daughter.”
Ms. Trump said she wanted to share her unique perspective on “my father as a man and my father as an executive.”
Her appearances before friendly crowds in these key Pennsylvania counties, with banks of TV cameras and reporters at the back of the room, missed an opportunity for the popular and respected Ms. Trump to vouch for her father’s character and defuse the salacious news coverage.
Mr. Trump must build support in these “collar counties” that form the Philadelphia suburbs to succeed turing the state red for the first time since 1988, which is the cornerstone of his plan to cobble together wins in Rust Belt states to help capture the White House.
The impact of videotape, for which Mr. Trump apologized and called “locker room talk,” and the allegations by women, which Mr. Trump called lies, was still sinking in.
“It’s taken its toll at this point. It is bring a lot of questions to people’s minds,” said Doug Propst, a Republican councilman for the Borough of Quakertown in Bucks County, who attended the event. “I believe some of the stuff has been made up.”
He said Ms. Trump could help her father’s campaign by “personalizing” him and telling voters about a side of him that the public doesn’t get to see. But the councilman didn’t ask Ms. Trump about it.
Mrs. Clinton had a 9-percentage point lead over Mr. Trump in Pennsylvania, 48 percent to 39 percent, in a Bloomberg Politics poll released Thursday. The survey reflected a four-way race that includes Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson at 6 percent and Green Party nominee Jill Stein at 4 percent.
Mrs. Clinton has topped nearly every poll for months in the Keystone State.
The women coming forward to accuse Mr. Trump of inappropriate behavior began with a report Wednesday by The New York Times about two women, Jessica Leeds and Rachel Crooks.
Ms. Leeds, 74, said that about 30 years ago, she was sitting next to Mr. Trump in the first-class cabin of a commercial airplane when he attacked her. She said he lifted the armrest and began grabbing her breasts and trying to put his hand up her skirt.
Ms. Leeds told the newspaper that he was “like an octopus” and she fled to the rear of the airplane to escape him.
Ms. Crooks said that in 2005, while she was working as a receptionist in Trump Tower, she encountered Mr. Trump while waiting for an elevator. When they shook hands, she said, he wouldn’t let go. He then began kissing her cheek and then kissed her on the mouth. Ms. Crooks said she was shaken by his aggressive actions.
Also on Wednesday, People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff claimed that Mr. Trump accosted her when she interviewed him for a 2005 article marking his and Melania Trump’s first wedding anniversary. Ms. Stoynoff said that while then-pregnant Mrs. Trump was out of the room, Mr. Trump pushed her against the wall and forced “his tongue down my throat.”
Mr. Trump denied her account.
“Why didn’t the writer of the twelve year old article in People Magazine mention the ‘incident’ in her story. Because it did not happen!” he tweeted.
A fourth woman, Mindy McGillivray, told the Palm Beach Post that Mr. Trump groped her 13 years ago at his Mar-a-Lago club. The Trump campaign also denied her story.
“The timing is definitely suspect,” said Trump supporter Heidi Gutsch, echoing many of the others who came to see Ivanka Trump.
She wanted to hear what Ms. Trump though about the allegations.
“This is her dad,” said the 54-year-old clinical nurse specialist. “I’d like to hear her to do bat for him.”
But when Mrs. Gutsch was called on to ask a question at the event, she asked Ms. Trump about her focus on the issue of school choice.
“This is another issue that I am so passionate about,” said Ms. Trump.