The annual issue, usually published in December or January, features a person, group or idea editors believe have “most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year.”
President Obama, who made the cover in 2008 as the nation’s first African-American president, is among the 38 nominees for the spot.
“The year 2012 was a challenging one for President Obama,” TIME‘s Adam Sorensen wrote, listing the economy, the attack in Benghazi and a deadlocked Congress as some of his many obstacles.
“And while many democrats admitted that he had disappointed in reaching their high expectations from 2012, they turned out for the election in robust numbers all the same,” Sorensen pointed out. “The oceans didn’t recede and the planet didn’t heal, but America was satisfied enough to reward him with four more years in office.”
President Obama’s chances of being chosen are solid if past covers are any indication. Former presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan were both featured on the cover after their first and second term elections.
The 16-year-old, two-gold-medal-winning athlete accomplished a number of firsts at the London Olympic Games this summer, including becoming the first U.S. gymnast to win both the all-around and team gold medals in the same year, and the first African-America gymnast to win the Olympic all-around title.
“She was able to become an Olympic champion who captivated her home country despite, she says, being the victim of bullying early in her career,” TIME noted.
And Jay-Z has been incredibly busy this year, too. In addition to welcoming daughter Blue Ivy Carter into the world this January, he also started his own musical festival — Philadelphia’s “Made in America.” He made headlines again after performing eight sold-out shows to celebrate the opening of Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center where the Nets, a team he partly owns, plays.
But its the rapper’s political involvement that TIME emphasizes:
“In 2012, Hova also made his mark on a larger scale: as one of the highest-profile surrogates for President Obama’s re-election campaign … He changed what it could mean for celebrities and politicians to work together.”
Among the other nominees are Mitt Romney and his 2012 running mate Paul Ryan, Vice President Joe Biden, and YouTube sensation Psy, the “Gangnam Style” singer.
The list is open for voting until December 12th, and the 2012 cover issue will hit stands December 21st.