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Speculation on ‘Sexiest man alive’

People will announce its Sexiest Man Alive for 2012 this week, forcing last year’s winner, Bradley Cooper, to pass his crown of sexiness on to some other well-deserving bastion of male hotness. The website Gossip Cop recently reported that the glossy magazine has chosen Channing Tatum to serve in this crucial role. Because this is a matter of national security and newsstand sales, People has not confirmed that report. That means all we can do is speculate about who may soon be deemed the most alluring guy on the planet.

Look, the presidential election is over, so we have to speculate about something. Here are five contenders for the title:

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Channing Tatum. Why he could be Sexiest Man Alive: That Gossip Cop item aside, this has been a breakout year for Tatum. He demonstrated his appeal this year in three important ways: by making women laugh (“21 Jump Street”), swoon (“The Vow”) and watch him take off his clothes during Ginuwine’s ‘‘Pony’’ (“Magic Mike”).

Why he might not be Sexiest Man Alive: He could be seen as — please pardon the ‘‘Magic Mike’’ double entendre — overexposed.

Robert Downey Jr. Why he could be Sexiest Man Alive: A favorite of our readers, the (Iron) man has a lot working in his favor. He was in the biggest blockbuster of 2012, ‘‘The Avengers.’’ He recently became a dad for the second time, which has raised his warm-and-cuddly numbers exponentially. Plus — and this could be the factor that ultimately takes him to the top — his strutability ratings are extremely high, as demonstrated during his swagger-filled entrance into Comic-Con 2012.

Why he might not be Sexiest Man Alive: There is really no reason.

Hugh Jackman. Why he could be Sexiest Man Alive: He’s starring in one of the splashier, awards-buzzy films of this holiday season, ‘‘Les Miserables,’’ making him a particularly timely choice. He’s also the rare individual who can wear Wolverine mutton chops and still look pretty handsome.

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Why he might not be Sexiest Man Alive: He already earned the title back in 2008.

Daniel Craig. Why he could be Sexiest Man Alive: He’s James Bond, and he’s starring in ‘‘Skyfall,’’ which is poised to blow up big at the box office and in terms of cultural conversation.

Why he might not be Sexiest Man Alive: His reputation as a super-serious guy might persuade People editors to opt for someone more willing to embrace his Sexiest Man status.

Ryan Gosling. Why he could be Sexiest Man Alive: As some may recall, the committed Gosling constituency flipped out last year when Cooper got the title instead of the ‘‘Hey Girl’’ Messiah. Perhaps it’s time to officially confirm his status as the most desirable male among People’s target demographic?

Why he might not be Sexiest Man Alive: If People chooses him, they may come across as looking too desperate to make up for last year’s perceived snub.

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