Andrew Sullivan has a pretty good analysis of why Obama is perfectly suited these times.
Obama acts like a kind of antacid to the American stomach. He has walked through the churn of racial and cultural and religious polarisation and somehow calmed everyone down.
Last spring he faced his biggest crisis — the exploitation by the Republican right of his incendiary former pastor Jeremiah Wright, a man whose penchant for polarisation was pathological. At a moment of extreme emotion and political peril, Obama found a way to give a speech that remains the greatest of recent times, to remind Americans of their complex and painful racial past, and not to condescend or cavil. The intellectual achievement of the speech was impressive enough — sufficient to provoke Garry Wills, the Lincoln scholar, to compare it to the Gettysburg address. That Obama wrote and delivered it as he heard in his ears every racial stereotype that had pummelled his psyche for his entire life bespoke an emotional maturity that still shocks.
He even managed — and this was a real achievement — to suck the drama out of the Clintons, to defeat them by quietly and methodically reducing their oxygen supply until they had no option but to surrender. Then he gave them their own night at the convention, a concession that many viewed as weakness but that only strengthened him. In the autumn he never took the Sarah Palin bait, treating her as one might handle the proverbial nutter on the bus even as she accused him of being a terrorist-loving socialist and whipped up largely white, southern crowds with paranoid fervour.
Even if Obama's legislative legacy falls a bit short of expectations, he has the chance to change the American political discourse for a generation. A couple decades of a more reasonable, more intelligent, and less hysterical brand of politics might not be quite as valuable as universal health care and a booming economy, but it'd be hugely significant anyway.
*If I ever publish a magazine with a foreign phrase as the title, especially if it's a phrase I am inventing, I'm going to be sure to ask a native speaker if said phrase sounds OK. Because if I screwed up the title, it would be hard for anyone to take my magazine seriously.