Trump promises to accept election results 'if I win'

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DELAWARE, OHIO — Donald Trump on Thursday said he would accept November's election results — so long as he's the winner.

The GOP nominee doubled down on controversial and unprecedented claims that he may not accept the results on November 8, first made at the third and final presidential debate Wednesday.

Warning of a "major announcement," Trump led off his first public appearance since the debate with the "promise and pledge" to his supporters: "I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win." The brief pause and defiant words that came after it immediately incited cheers from the crowd.

Related: GOP Slams Trump: Not Accepting Election Results Would Be 'Beyond the Pale'

Despite his initially obstinate comment, Trump's argument softened somewhat as he went deeper into his remarks. He called it "unprecedented" to have to concede results before they're known — a belief Trump hasn't had to be asked about before because it is a basic and fundamental principle of American democracy. But as Trump sees it, not committing means allowing himself the ability to legally contest a close election.

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Notable people at the last presidential debate of 2016
Melania Trump (2nd L-R), wife of Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, and his daughters Ivanka Trump and Tiffany Trump attend Trump's third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate against Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton (R) talks with his daughter Chelsea Clinton prior to the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
President Barack Obama's half brother Malik, a guest of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, sits in the crowd watching the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Dallas Mavericks NBA basketball team owner Mark Cuban (R) talks with retired basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (L) as they await the start of the third and final debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Former US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrives to attend the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards (3rd L) attends the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Melania Trump (R) greets vice presidential candidate Mike Pence before the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Republican Party donor Sheldon Adelson (center L) attends the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Eric Trump takes his seat before the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Ivanka Trump takes her seat before the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence takes part in a CNN interview before the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager for Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, answers questions in the spin room after Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Corey Lewandowski (R), former campaign manager for Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, arrives in the spin room after Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Sarah Palin speaks with Ben Carson near President Barack Obama's half brother Malik (L) after the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Donald Trump Jr., son of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, arrives for the third and final debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump Democratic nominee and Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Scott Baio and his wife Renee Sloan attend the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Rudy Giuliani, former New York City Mayor and advisor to Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, arrives for the third and final debate between Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Former U.S. president Bill Clinton throws a kiss to someone in the crowd during the third and final debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Hewlett Packard chair and CEO Meg Whitman arrives to attend the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Republican National Commitee Chairman Reince Priebus awaits the start of the third and final debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Raedle/Pool
Former candidate Ben Carson arrives to attend the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Singer Wayne Newton and his wife Kathleen McCrone (L) take their seats to attend the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Actor Ted Danson and his wife Mary Steenburgen arrive to attend the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Actor Ted Danson arrives to attend the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Jesse Jackson arrives to attend the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Musician Steve Aoki arrives to attend the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Israeli-American businessman Haim Saban arrives to attend the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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"I will accept a clear election result," Trump allowed. "But I would also reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result." He cited the landmark 2000 Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore as precedent for needing to contest an election.

Prior to Trump's speech, Republican National Committee Communications Director Sean Spicer told Fox News Radio he would like Trump to clarify his remarks on not accepting election results. Spicer noted, however, "I don't think Donald Trump walks back anything."

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