CHARLOTTE — Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine stepped up the party's attack on Donald Trump on Thursday, telling voters and reporters in North Carolina that it would try to preempt any attacks on the election's integrity by winning in a rout.

“If we win North Carolina, we’ve got this thing, folks,” the Virginia senator said at a microbrewery in Charlotte's downtown. “The bigger we can win by, the harder it is for him to whine and have anyone believe him.”

Kaine made the remarks on the first day of North Carolina's early voting period, and prefaced them by attacking the state legislature's passage of a voter ID bill that was struck down by federal courts after a lawsuit found evidence that its advocates wanted to suppress the black vote. In a news conference here, Kaine said that early voting, a post-2000 election innovation available in 34 states and the District, could also limit the risk of voter suppression on Nov. 8. (Three other states — Colorado, Oregon and Washington — exclusively use a vote-by-mail system.)

While Democrat Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign has attacked Trump's “rigging” claim as his latest and most offensive gaffe, election-watchers worry more deeply about its implications. Since the summer, Trump, the GOP presidential nominee, has encouraged his supporters to watch the polls in inner cities, saying that places like “St. Louis, Chicago and Philadelphia” are rife with fraud. In Kaine's home state of Virginia, two Trump supporters recently spent hours looking across the parking lot at a Democratic campaign office, making sure that volunteers could see they were carrying guns. In Prince William County, one of the Democratic-trending parts of the state where the Clinton-Kaine ticket has built a lead, Democrats were rebuffed when they requested that guns be kept out of polling places on private property.

Asked about those incidents, and whether the campaign thought there needed to be more precautions to protect the vote, Kaine said that Democrats would be stepping up their own election watch effort, something that typically involves thousands of poll-watchers and at-the-ready pro bono lawyers.

“We have a very significant voter protection effort on the campaign,” said Kaine. “But when things like that happen, it means we've got to have more of an effort. When Russia's making claims that it wants to influence this, we have to have more of an effort. The traditional voter protection effort we have is very, very significant, but we're going to have to do more this time, just to make sure that people feel protected.”

Kaine was also asked about former vice president Al Gore's 36-day contest of the 2000 election results in Florida, something Trump and many other Republicans have cited to argue that the nominee is not saying anything new.

“There is nothing wrong with looking at how an election comes out,” Kaine said, “and if there is an automatic recount triggered in a state like there was in Florida at the time, there is nothing wrong with that. That's not what Donald Trump has been saying.”

Kaine had previously helped Democrats on similar efforts to recount close votes. In 2005, when he was elected governor, Kaine and retiring governor Mark Warner (now the state's senior senator) said that State Sen. Creigh Deeds, then a candidate for attorney general, had likely won his close race. Deeds conceded after a recount that Democrats raised money to pay for.

Harking back to his time as a missionary in Honduras, Kaine said that Trump was beginning to remind him of a banana republic politician. “Too many people in the world live in systems where respecting elections and the peaceful transfer of power is not the norm,” he said.