The Next America

Against the odds, the president built a new majority

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Callie Shell / Aurora for TIME

President Barack Obama during an interview in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 12, 2012

It’s hard to make the white house feel like a home, but President Obama has put a few personal touches on the Oval Office. A bust of Abraham Lincoln squares off with one of Martin Luther King Jr., and he’s replaced the decorative china with a framed program from the 1963 March on Washington. Our Person of the Year interview, which took place before the dreadful shootings in Connecticut, showed a more forceful Obama, a President thinking about the next four years and his legacy and willing to use his capital in a second term. After all, he will never have to run for office again, never have to say the words “I approved this message.”

(MOREBarack Obama, 2012 Person of the Year)

The cover story, by our White House correspondent Michael Scherer, depicts President Obama as both the beneficiary and the architect of a campaign that targeted the demographic changes of a new America. Obama has assembled a new voting coalition, but as Michael’s story shows, it will not automatically be inherited by another Democrat. The striking cover image, which will become one of the classic portraits of the President, is by Nadav Kander. It was shot in the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room, where a portrait of George Washington presides. In addition, we have memorable images by TIME contributing photographer Callie Shell, who recently spent two days with the President. Her behind-the-scenes pictures of Obama’s first presidential bid captured the spirit of that campaign. The cover story was edited by executive editor and Washington bureau chief Michael Duffy. The issue was edited by executive editor Radhika Jones, who also participated in the Oval Office interview, and it was designed by assistant art director Ryan Moore.

This issue can claim two historic Person of the Year firsts: a silver border, which we hope will become the new standard for Person of the Year, and four additional covers inside the magazine. The Person of the Year short list: Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and particle physicist Fabiola Gianotti.

PHOTOSThe Malala Effect: Dreaming of a University Degree

INTERACTIVE TIMELINETim Cook and the Rise of Apple

INTERVIEWA Conversation With Mohamed Morsi

VIDEOThe Higgs Boson, Particle of the Year