But in a 1988 interview with CNN at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans, Trump showed more deference for the American political process, calling it "a beautiful thing."
In the interview, Trump was asked by Larry King why he was involved in politics.
"I enjoy it," Trump said. "I enjoy the system. I doubt I'll ever be involved in politics beyond what I do right now. But I do enjoy the system. I find it, really, a really beautiful thing to watch. It's a beautiful machine."
At the debate on Wednesday night, Trump said he would decide on Election Day whether to accept the outcome of the race.
"I will look at it at the time," Trump said. "I will keep you in suspense."
Earlier in the 1988 interview, Trump said that he was at the convention as a guest of then-Republican nominee and Vice President George H.W. Bush, his wife Barbara Bush, and other prominent Republicans.
"It's the first time I've really been involved in a convention," he said. "I came down and I wanted to see how it works. And it's fascinating."
Trump added that it was easy for him to raise money for Bush, whom he called a "very formidable guy." Trump has been critical of the whole Bush family during this election cycle, a rivalry sparked in part by his primary campaign against Jeb Bush.
In some respects, Trump's rhetoric in the interview was similar to the tone of his current campaign.
Asked by King if he considered himself a "Rockefeller Republican" or a "Bush Republican," Trump answered, "No, I think I'm really, the people I do best with are the people that drive the taxis. You know, wealthy people don't like me because I'm competing against them all the time and they don't like me. I like to win."