The Sixth Seal Long Overdue (Revelation 6:12)

ON THE MAP; Exploring the Fault Where the Next Big One May Be Waiting

The Big One Awaits The Big One Awaits
Published: March 25, 2001

Alexander Gates, a geology professor at Rutgers-Newark, is co-author of ”The Encyclopedia of Earthquakes and Volcanoes,” which will be published by Facts on File in July. He has been leading a four-year effort to remap an area known as the Sloatsburg Quadrangle, a 5-by-7-mile tract near Mahwah that crosses into New York State. The Ramapo Fault, which runs through it, was responsible for a big earthquake in 1884, and Dr. Gates warns that a recurrence is overdue. He recently talked about his findings.
Q. What have you found?
A. We’re basically looking at a lot more rock, and we’re looking at the fracturing and jointing in the bedrock and putting it on the maps. Any break in the rock is a fracture. If it has movement, then it’s a fault. There are a lot of faults that are offshoots of the Ramapo. Basically when there are faults, it means you had an earthquake that made it. So there was a lot of earthquake activity to produce these features. We are basically not in a period of earthquake activity along the Ramapo Fault now, but we can see that about six or seven times in history, about 250 million years ago, it had major earthquake activity. And because it’s such a fundamental zone of weakness, anytime anything happens, the Ramapo Fault goes.
Q. Where is the Ramapo Fault?
A. The fault line is in western New Jersey and goes through a good chunk of the state, all the way down to Flemington. It goes right along where they put in the new 287. It continues northeast across the Hudson River right under the Indian Point power plant up into Westchester County. There are a lot of earthquakes rumbling around it every year, but not a big one for a while.
Q. Did you find anything that surprised you?
A. I found a lot of faults, splays that offshoot from the Ramapo that go 5 to 10 miles away from the fault. I have looked at the Ramapo Fault in other places too. I have seen splays 5 to 10 miles up into the Hudson Highlands. And you can see them right along the roadsides on 287. There’s been a lot of damage to those rocks, and obviously it was produced by fault activities. All of these faults have earthquake potential.
Q. Describe the 1884 earthquake.
A. It was in the northern part of the state near the Sloatsburg area. They didn’t have precise ways of describing the location then. There was lots of damage. Chimneys toppled over. But in 1884, it was a farming community, and there were not many people to be injured. Nobody appears to have written an account of the numbers who were injured.
Q. What lessons we can learn from previous earthquakes?
A. In 1960, the city of Agadir in Morocco had a 6.2 earthquake that killed 12,000 people, a third of the population, and injured a third more. I think it was because the city was unprepared.There had been an earthquake in the area 200 years before. But people discounted the possibility of a recurrence. Here in New Jersey, we should not make the same mistake. We should not forget that we had a 5.4 earthquake 117 years ago. The recurrence interval for an earthquake of that magnitude is every 50 years, and we are overdue. The Agadir was a 6.2, and a 5.4 to a 6.2 isn’t that big a jump.
Q. What are the dangers of a quake that size?
A. When you’re in a flat area in a wooden house it’s obviously not as dangerous, although it could cut off a gas line that could explode. There’s a real problem with infrastructure that is crumbling, like the bridges with crumbling cement. There’s a real danger we could wind up with our water supplies and electricity cut off if a sizable earthquake goes off. The best thing is to have regular upkeep and keep up new building codes. The new buildings will be O.K. But there is a sense of complacency.
Photo: Alexander Gates, a Rutgers geologist, is mapping a part of the Ramapo Fault, site of previous earthquakes. (John W. Wheeler for The New York Times)

The New Nuclear Age (Revelation 15)

Playing a Game of Chicken with Nuclear Strategy
Cross-posted with
Once upon a time, when choosing a new president, a factor for many voters was the perennial question: “Whose finger do you want on the nuclear button?” Of all the responsibilities of America’s top executive, none may be more momentous than deciding whether, and under what circumstances, to activate the “nuclear codes” — the secret alphanumeric messages that would inform missile officers in silos and submarines that the fearful moment had finally arrived to launch their intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) toward a foreign adversary, igniting a thermonuclear war.
Until recently in the post-Cold War world, however, nuclear weapons seemed to drop from sight, and that question along with it. Not any longer. In 2016, the nuclear issue is back big time, thanks both to the rise of Donald Trump (including various unsettling comments he’s made about nuclear weapons) and actual changes in the global nuclear landscape.
With passions running high on both sides in this year’s election and rising fears about Donald Trump’s impulsive nature and Hillary Clinton’s hawkish one, it’s hardly surprising that the “nuclear button” question has surfaced repeatedly throughout the campaign. In one of the more pointed exchanges of the first presidential debate, Hillary Clinton declared that Donald Trump lacked the mental composure for the job. “A man who can be provoked by a tweet,” she commented, “should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes.” Donald Trump has reciprocated by charging that Clinton is too prone to intervene abroad. “You’re going to end up in World War III over Syria,” he told reporters in Florida last month.
For most election observers, however, the matter of personal character and temperament has dominated discussions of the nuclear issue, with partisans on each side insisting that the other candidate is temperamentally unfit to exercise control over the nuclear codes. There is, however, a more important reason to worry about whose finger will be on that button this time around: at this very moment, for a variety of reasons, the “nuclear threshold” — the point at which some party to a “conventional” (non-nuclear) conflict chooses to employ atomic weapons — seems to be moving dangerously lower.
Not so long ago, it was implausible that a major nuclear power — the United States, Russia, or China — would consider using atomic weapons in any imaginable conflict scenario. No longer. Worse yet, this is likely to be our reality for years to come, which means that the next president will face a world in which a nuclear decision-making point might arrive far sooner than anyone would have thought possible just a year or two ago — with potentially catastrophic consequences for us all.
No less worrisome, the major nuclear powers (and some smaller ones) are all in the process of acquiring new nuclear arms, which could, in theory, push that threshold lower still. These include a variety of cruise missiles and other delivery systems capable of being used in “limited” nuclear wars — atomic conflicts that, in theory at least, could be confined to just a single country or one area of the world (say, Eastern Europe) and so might be even easier for decision-makers to initiate. The next president will have to decide whether the U.S. should actually produce weapons of this type and also what measures should be taken in response to similar decisions by Washington’s likely adversaries.
Lowering the Nuclear Threshold
During the dark days of the Cold War, nuclear strategists in the United States and the Soviet Union conjured up elaborate conflict scenarios in which military actions by the two superpowers and their allies might lead from, say, minor skirmishing along the Iron Curtain to full-scale tank combat to, in the end, the use of “battlefield” nuclear weapons, and then city-busting versions of the same to avert defeat. In some of these scenarios, strategists hypothesized about wielding “tactical” or battlefield weaponry — nukes powerful enough to wipe out a major tank formation, but not Paris or Moscow — and claimed that it would be possible to contain atomic warfare at such a devastating but still sub-apocalyptic level. (Henry Kissinger, for instance, made his reputation by preaching this lunatic doctrine in his first book, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy.) Eventually, leaders on both sides concluded that the only feasible role for their atomic arsenals was to act as deterrents to the use of such weaponry by the other side. This was, of course, the concept of “mutually assured destruction,” or — in one of the most classically apt acronyms of all times: MAD. It would, in the end, form the basis for all subsequent arms control agreements between the two superpowers.
Anxiety over the escalatory potential of tactical nuclear weapons peaked in the 1970s when the Soviet Union began deploying the SS-20 intermediate-range ballistic missile (capable of striking cities in Europe, but not the U.S.) and Washington responded with plans to deploy nuclear-armed, ground-launched cruise missiles and the Pershing-II ballistic missile in Europe. The announcement of such plans provoked massive antinuclear demonstrations across Europe and the United States. On December 8, 1987, at a time when worries had been growing about how a nuclear conflagration in Europe might trigger an all-out nuclear exchange between the superpowers, President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
That historic agreement — the first to eliminate an entire class of nuclear delivery systems — banned the deployment of ground-based cruise or ballistic missiles with a range of 500 and 5,500 kilometers and required the destruction of all those then in existence. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation inherited the USSR’s treaty obligations and pledged to uphold the INF along with other U.S.-Soviet arms control agreements. In the view of most observers, the prospect of a nuclear war between the two countries practically vanished as both sides made deep cuts in their atomic stockpiles in accordance with already existing accords and then signed others, including the New START, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 2010.
Today, however, this picture has changed dramatically. The Obama administration has concluded that Russia has violated the INF treaty by testing a ground-launched cruise missile of prohibited range, and there is reason to believe that, in the not-too-distant future, Moscow might abandon that treaty altogether. Even more troubling, Russia has adopted a military doctrine that favors the early use of nuclear weapons if it faces defeat in a conventional war, and NATO is considering comparable measures in response. The nuclear threshold, in other words, is dropping rapidly.
Much of this is due, it seems, to Russian fears about its military inferiority vis-à-vis the West. In the chaotic years following the collapse of the USSR, Russian military spending plummeted and the size and quality of its forces diminished accordingly. In an effort to restore Russia’s combat capabilities, President Vladimir Putin launched a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar expansion and modernization program. The fruits of this effort were apparent in the Crimea and Ukraine in 2014, when Russian forces, however disguised, demonstrated better fighting skills and wielded better weaponry than in the Chechnya wars a decade earlier. Even Russian analysts acknowledge, however, that their military in its current state would be no match for American and NATO forces in a head-on encounter, given the West’s superior array of conventional weaponry. To fill the breach, Russian strategic doctrine now calls for the early use of nuclear weapons to offset an enemy’s superior conventional forces.
To put this in perspective, Russian leaders ardently believe that they are the victims of a U.S.-led drive by NATO to encircle their country and diminish its international influence. They point, in particular, to the build-up of NATO forces in the Baltic countries, involving the semi-permanent deployment of combat battalions in what was once the territory of the Soviet Union, and in apparent violation of promises made to Gorbachev in 1990 that NATO would not do so. As a result, Russia has been bolstering its defenses in areas bordering Ukraine and the Baltic states, and training its troops for a possible clash with the NATO forces stationed there.
This is where the nuclear threshold enters the picture. Fearing that it might be defeated in a future clash, its military strategists have called for the early use of tactical nuclear weapons, some of which no doubt would violate the INF Treaty, in order to decimate NATO forces and compel them to quit fighting. Paradoxically, in Russia, this is labeled a “de-escalation” strategy, as resorting to strategic nuclear attacks on the U.S. under such circumstances would inevitably result in Russia’s annihilation. On the other hand, a limited nuclear strike (so the reasoning goes) could potentially achieve success on the battlefield without igniting all-out atomic war. As Eugene Rumer of the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace explains, this strategy assumes that such supposedly “limited” nuclear strikes “will have a sobering effect on the enemy, which will then cease and desist.”
To what degree tactical nuclear weapons have been incorporated into Moscow’s official military doctrine remains unknown, given the degree of secrecy surrounding such matters. It is apparent, however, that the Russians have been developing the means with which to conduct such “limited” strikes. Of greatest concern to Western analysts in this regard is their deployment of the Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile, a modern version of the infamous Soviet-era “Scud” missile (used by Saddam Hussein’s forces during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988 and the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991). Said to have a range of 500 kilometers (just within the INF limit), the Iskander can carry either a conventional or a nuclear warhead. As a result, a targeted country or a targeted military could never be sure which type it might be facing (and might simply assume the worst). Adding to such worries, the Russians have deployed the Iskander in Kaliningrad, a tiny chunk of Russian territory wedged between Poland and Lithuania that just happens to put it within range of many western European cities.
In response, NATO strategists have discussed lowering the nuclear threshold themselves, arguing — ominously enough — that the Russians will only be fully dissuaded from employing their limited-nuclear-war strategy if they know that NATO has a robust capacity to do the same. At the very least, what’s needed, some of them claim, is a more frequent inclusion of nuclear-capable or dual-use aircraft in exercises on Russia’s frontiers to “signal” NATO’s willingness to resort to limited nuclear strikes, too. Again, such moves are not yet official NATO strategy, but it’s clear that senior officials are weighing them seriously.
Just how all of this might play out in a European crisis is, of course, unknown, but both sides in an increasingly edgy standoff are coming to accept that nuclear weapons might have a future military role, which is, of course, a recipe for almost unimaginable escalation and disaster of an apocalyptic sort. This danger is likely to become more pronounced in the years ahead because both Washington and Moscow seem remarkably intent on developing and deploying new nuclear weapons designed with just such needs in mind.
The New Nuclear Armaments
Both countries are already in the midst of ambitious and extremely costly efforts to “modernize” their nuclear arsenals. Of all the weapons now being developed, the two generating the most anxiety in terms of that nuclear threshold are a new Russian ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) and an advanced U.S. air-launched cruise missile (ALCM). Unlike ballistic missiles, which exit the Earth’s atmosphere before returning to strike their targets, such cruise missiles remain within the atmosphere throughout their flight.
American officials claim that the Russian GLCM, reportedly now being deployed, is of a type outlawed by the INF Treaty. Without providing specifics, the State Department indicated in a 2014 memo that it had “a range capability of 500 km [kilometers] to 5,500 km,” which would indeed put it in violation of that treaty by allowing Russian combat forces to launch nuclear warheads against cities throughout Europe and the Middle East in a “limited” nuclear war.
The GLCM is likely to prove one of the most vexing foreign policy issues the next president will face. So far, the White House has been reluctant to press Moscow too hard, fearing that the Russians might respond by exiting the INF Treaty altogether and so eliminate remaining constraints on its missile program. But many in Congress and among Washington’s foreign policy elite are eager to see the next occupant of the Oval Office take a tougher stance if the Russians don’t halt deployment of the missile, threatening Moscow with more severe economic sanctions or moving toward countermeasures like the deployment of enhanced anti-missile systems in Europe. The Russians would, in turn, undoubtedly perceive such moves as threats to their strategic deterrent forces and so an invitation for further weapons acquisitions, setting off a fresh round in the long-dormant Cold War nuclear arms race.
On the American side, the weapon of immediate concern is a new version of the AGM-86B air-launched cruise missile, usually carried by B-52 bombers. Also known as the Long-Range Standoff Weapon (LRSO), it is, like the Iskander-M, expected to be deployed in both nuclear and conventional versions, leaving those on the potential receiving end unsure what might be heading their way. In other words, as with the Iskander-M, the intended target might assume the worst in a crisis, leading to the early use of nuclear weapons. Put another way, such missiles make for twitchy trigger fingers and are likely to lead to a heightened risk of nuclear war, which, once started, might in turn take Washington and Moscow right up the escalatory ladder to a planetary holocaust.
No wonder former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry called on President Obama to cancel the ALCM program in a recent Washington Post op-ed piece. “Because they… come in both nuclear and conventional variants,” he wrote, “cruise missiles are a uniquely destabilizing type of weapon.” And this issue is going to fall directly into the lap of the next president.
The New Nuclear Era
Whoever is elected on November 8th, we are evidently all headed into a world in which Trumpian-style itchy trigger fingers could be the norm. It already looks like both Moscow and Washington will contribute significantly to this development — and they may not be alone. In response to Russian and American moves in the nuclear arena, China is reported to be developing a “hypersonic glide vehicle,” a new type of nuclear warhead better able to evade anti-missile defenses — something that, at a moment of heightened crisis, might make a nuclear first strike seem more attractive to Washington. And don’t forget Pakistan, which is developing its own short-range “tactical” nuclear missiles, increasing the risk of the quick escalation of any future Indo-Pakistani confrontation to a nuclear exchange. (To put such “regional” dangers in perspective, a local nuclear war in South Asia could cause a global nuclear winter and, according to one study, possibly kill a billion people worldwide, thanks to crop failures and the like.)
And don’t forget North Korea, which is now testing a nuclear-armed ICBM, the Musudan, intended to strike the Western United States. That prompted a controversial decision in Washington to deploy THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) anti-missile batteries in South Korea (something China bitterly opposes), as well as the consideration of other countermeasures, including undoubtedly scenarios involving first strikes against the North Koreans.
It’s clear that we’re on the threshold of a new nuclear era: a time when the actual use of atomic weapons is being accorded greater plausibility by military and political leaders globally, while war plans are being revised to allow the use of such weapons at an earlier stage in future armed clashes.
As a result, the next president will have to grapple with nuclear weapons issues — and possible nuclear crises — in a way unknown since the Cold War era. Above all else, this will require both a cool head and a sufficient command of nuclear matters to navigate competing pressures from allies, the military, politicians, pundits, and the foreign policy establishment without precipitating a nuclear conflagration. On the face of it, that should disqualify Donald Trump. When questioned on nuclear issues in the first debate, he exhibited a striking ignorance of the most basic aspects of nuclear policy. But even Hillary Clinton, for all her experience as secretary of state, is likely to have a hard time grappling with the pressures and dangers that are likely to arise in the years ahead, especially given that her inclination is to toughen U.S. policy toward Russia.
In other words, whoever enters the Oval Office, it may be time for the rest of us to take up those antinuclear signs long left to molder in closets and memories, and put some political pressure on leaders globally to avoid strategies and weapons that would make human life on this planet so much more precarious than it already is.
Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left. A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @mklare1.
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Scarlet Woman Holds Modest Lead (Revelation 17)

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 06: Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers remarks after being presented the 2013 Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize December 6, 2013 in Washington, DC. Clinton received the award for her work in the areas of women's rights and internet freedom. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Alexander Burns and Alan Rappeport
Politifact gave Trump a “Pants on Fire” grade over his claim that Obama abused a Trump supporter.
In the final weekend of the race, Mr. Trump has been clinging to a new myth about President Obama and deriding him for lashing out at a pro-Trump protester at a rally on Friday.
Mr. Trump said that Mr. Obama was “really screaming” at the protester and that his behavior was a “disgrace.”
“If I spoke the way Obama spoke to that protester they would say ‘he became unhinged,’” Mr. Trump declared.
On Sunday, Politifact, the fact-checking web site, analyzed the tape of Mr. Obama at the rally to determine whether Mr. Trump’s criticism was fair.
“Obama defended the protester’s right to speak out, and didn’t scream at him,” according to Politifact’s Allison Graves: “In fact, Obama’s remarks were directed at Clinton supporters, not the protester.”
Early voting is coming to a close in Florida, the nation’s largest swing state, and Mrs. Clinton is not expected to return there before Election Day. But on the campaign’s last weekend, she is sending her most prized surrogate, President Obama, to rev up turnout in the Orlando area.
Mr. Obama has been an indispensable force in getting out the vote, and the site for his visit is no accident. Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist tracking early turnout in Florida, detailed a distinct bump in Democratic voting around Jacksonville after Mr. Obama’s visit there on Thursday. And while Democrats have enjoyed a big boost from Latino voting in the Orlando area, they see room to grow, especially among black voters.
The hope for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign is that with most of Florida already having voted, she will have built a meaningful lead before Election Day. But Mr. Trump is still going all out in the state, campaigning in Tampa on Saturday and planning a visit to Sarasota on Monday.
In the final push, Clinton looks to Khan and LeBron.
Mrs. Clinton has campaigned with a powerhouse lineup of supporters over the past week, and two people joining her on Sunday are among the most potent. In Ohio, she will appear alongside LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers star and a revered figure in the biggest swing state leaning toward Mr. Trump.
Mr. James does not routinely intervene in politics, so his support for Mrs. Clinton — and the tone and language of his remarks — could break though in a way that most celebrity endorsements do not.
In New Hampshire, Mrs. Clinton will be joined by an electrifying figure of a different kind: Khizr Khan, whose August clash with Mr. Trump proved disastrous for the Republican nominee. The Clinton campaign has put Mr. Khan in television ads as a spokesman for inclusion and religious tolerance, and he has also proved almost uniquely capable of flummoxing Mr. Trump. Mr. Khan’s reappearance comes as Mr. Trump is struggling to stay on message.
Trump looks to stay on that message as he makes a campaign blitz to five states on Sunday.
Mr. Trump’s campaign aides have pushed him to stick to a rigid script and avoid undermining himself with loose talk as he closes out the race. He has been cooperative, up to a point. On Saturday, Mr. Trump repeatedly veered far from his prepared remarks, offering free-form thoughts on the news media, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the offensive to retake Mosul, Iraq. He also repeated a false story that Mr. Obama had screamed at a pro-Trump protester.
On Sunday, Mr. Trump’s discipline may be strained further as he campaigns at a frenzied pace, largely in states that he is likely to lose. He is due to visit five states, four of which — Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia — appear to be leaning toward Mrs. Clinton.
His campaign has spun it as a bold move to exploit his rising fortunes in the race. The reality is harsher: Mr. Trump is trying to put blue states in play because he is running out of ways to assemble 270 electoral votes, and he may need a long-shot state to break his way.

More Activity With The Korean Nuclear Horn

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author
Nov. 4, 2016 at 10:49 PM
Writing for 38 North, a Johns Hopkins University website dedicated to North Korea issues, analyst Jack Liu says evidence from satellite images indicate both the Punggye-ri nuclear test site and the Sohae Satellite Launching Station are not quite showing signs of a looming test.
Punggye-ri is displaying signs of activity at the North Portal, the site of Pyongyang’s Sept. 9 nuclear test, but the purpose of the activity “remains unclear,” Liu writes.
Reasons for the work include post-test data collection to closing the portal in preparation for North Korea’s next nuclear test.
Imagery shows mining carts and movement of material that is either “crushed rock or sand” that could be used to seal the tunnel, according to the analysis.
Liu added North Korea could still try to conduct tests at the West and South Portals.
The Sohae Satellite Launching Station, meanwhile, has shown very little activity indicating another North Korea rocket test.
Pyongyang fired an earth-observation satellite from the site in February.
According to Liu, the launch pad appears to be clear, and other movements suggest either a preparation for another engine test or a cleaning after the previous test.
The site has remained largely inactive in October, the analyst states.

Scarlet Woman Holding Firm Lead (Revelation 17)

NOVEMBER 5, 2016
Over the last few days of the race, Donald J. Trump intends to travel all over the country. He’s going to Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and even Minnesota, he said Saturday.
It’s an impressive travel schedule, but it may reflect the biggest challenge facing him right now: It’s still not clear exactly where and how he would win.
Hillary Clinton has a consistent and clear advantage in states worth at least 270 electoral votes, even if the race has undoubtedly tightened over the last few weeks. But even that understates the challenge facing Mr. Trump’s campaign: It’s not at all obvious where he has his best chance of breaking through, making it harder for him to concentrate his efforts over the last days of the campaign.
This is not to say that Mr. Trump can’t win. The polls could be off across the board.
But even if he wins Arizona, Iowa, Ohio, Utah, North Carolina, Florida and New Hampshire, he’s still short of a victory.
He’s not assured to win any of those states, to be clear — although he’s a clear favorite in Iowa and Utah at this point. He has trailed in more live interview polls of North Carolina and Florida than he has led, although the national race has tightened since many were taken.
Of all of these states, the only one where Mr. Trump has really been close in the polls is Nevada.
But Nevada is also the state where we know the most about the results because of early voting, and it hasn’t brought good news for Mr. Trump.
Democrats have largely replicated the turnout from 2012 (when President Obama ultimately won the state by about seven points), thanks in no small part to a strong turnout among Hispanic voters. Many analysts, like the Nevada politics guru Jon Ralston, have concluded that Mr. Trump has basically lost the state already.
This might seem difficult to reconcile with the polling, but Nevada is a state where pollsters have underestimated Democrats in the past. One theory is that the polls are not very good at capturing the most Democratic-leaning Hispanic voters. And indeed, the polls showing Mr. Trump ahead in the state have shown a smaller lead for Mrs. Clinton among nonwhite voters than seems plausible, particularly given his rhetoric against Hispanic immigrants.
Perhaps Mr. Trump will mount a huge comeback in Nevada on Election Day. Or maybe Democrats are much weaker among registered Democrats or unaffiliated voters than most analysts believe.
But if Mrs. Clinton does indeed have a big advantage in Nevada, then his chances start looking very bleak: He’s at a disadvantage in the polls of all of the other states that could put him over the top.
What’s more, it’s not really clear where he has his best chance — something reflected in Mr. Trump’s unfocused pre-election push.
Pennsylvania seemed like Mr. Trump’s best option earlier in the year, but he hasn’t led a live interview poll there since the summer. The final nonpartisan live interview polls there show Mrs. Clinton ahead by a comfortable margin of four to six points. The state will probably be close, but it’s quite clear that she has the edge.
Wisconsin is another state that seemed as if it could be promising for Mr. Trump. It has a large population of white working-class Democrats, just as Iowa does, and Mr. Trump is running well in Iowa. But he has struggled among Republican-leaning voters in the Milwaukee suburbs.
Interactive Feature | 2016 Election Forecast: Who Will Be President? The Upshot’s presidential forecast, updated daily.
The race could tighten if these voters return to his side, but he hasn’t led a live interview poll there all year.
Michigan could be a more interesting option for Mr. Trump. It was the most Democratic of all of these states in the 2012 election, and he hasn’t led a poll there all year either. But recent polls have shown a relatively tight race there.
Mrs. Clinton visited the state on Friday, and President Obama will visit on Sunday and Monday, and Mrs. Clinton will make another stop on Monday, so clearly the Clinton campaign thinks there’s some softness there. That said, if the election comes down to whether Mr. Trump can score an upset in Michigan, he’s in a lot of trouble. It seems hard to imagine he could carry the state without also carrying Pennsylvania.
Colorado is a notch tougher than any of those states. The demographics and polling are both tough for Mr. Trump. It has one of the best-educated populations in the country, along with a large Hispanic population.
There was one recent poll that showed a tied race in Colorado, but most have shown Mrs. Clinton with a lead. Like Nevada, Colorado is also a state where the Democrats have outperformed their final poll numbers in every presidential election since 2004. The early vote numbers are strong for the Democrats there as well.
Virginia is like Colorado: Neither polls nor demographics seem promising for Mr. Trump. Ultimately, the fact that the race is close in North Carolina is a very strong indicator that Mrs. Clinton has a big lead in Virginia.
Then there are states like Minnesota and New Mexico. The polls have not shown an especially tight race, and Mrs. Clinton is not campaigning or airing advertisements there. Mr. Trump’s team has held out some hope of winning, but these states seem especially unlikely to decide the election.
Again, the polls are close enough that the possibility of a victory for Mr. Trump is still quite real. But it’s just not clear exactly how or where he would break through. It doesn’t seem that the Trump campaign knows either.