(CNN)Before Donald Trump was a front-running Republican presidential candidate, the real estate mogul believed that the nation's economy ran better when Democrats were in control and that Hillary Clinton would be a strong negotiator with foreign nations.
Trump in '04: 'I probably identify more as Democrat'
"In many cases, I probably identify more as Democrat," Trump told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in a 2004 interview. "It just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans. Now, it shouldn't be that way. But if you go back, I mean it just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats. ...But certainly we had some very good economies under Democrats, as well as Republicans. But we've had some pretty bad disaster under the Republicans."
Trump still attacks plenty of Republicans today, but the comments praising Democrats are in stark contrast to the fiery rhetoric he deploys against them on the campaign trail, including President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
If the current polls hold up,Trump would likely face Clinton in the general election. He considered her an appealing candidate for president when it came to dealing with foreign nations. In another interview with CNN's Blitzer in 2007, he praised her ability to negotiate when asked if she could successfully work out a deal with Iran.
"Hillary's always surrounded herself with very good people. I think Hillary would do a good job," Trump said in another interview with Blitzer.
A Trump campaign spokesman declined to comment when asked if his views have since changed. Trump has been critical of the Iran nuclear agreement, which was made public this month.
In the 2007 interview, Trump also said Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney could do the job, but he criticized then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for what he called a "sad" performance.
Even though he's running as a Republican now, in many ways, Trump hasn't changed. As a presidential contender, Trump has not shied away from criticizing Republicans: He has taken shots at almost every White House competitor and criticized former President George W. Bush. "I was not a big Bush fan. I thought he was not up to par," Trump told CNN in May.
And he has continued to enjoy success among conservatives despite revelations that he once supported abortion rights, donated thousands to Democrats and questioned the heroism of Arizona Sen. John McCain, a prisoner of war during Vietnam.
Despite the trail controversial statements on the campaign trail—or perhaps because of it—Trump has skyrocketed in public opinion polls, pulling past former frontrunner Jeb Bush. A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted over the weekend showed that 24 percent of voters that lean Republican said they would support Trump, and earlier CNN/ORC surveys have documented his rise.