A line of thought I've been trying out lately. Some theses:
1) Obama's metapolitics is his account of how we should conduct and think about politics. "Dumbed down," it is all about unity and bipartisanship. But "smarted up" it is a more sophisticated view, spelled out in "The Audacity of Hope," that emphasizes debate and deliberation about the common good. The common good as the regulative ideal of democratic debate and deliberation. Obama is a deliberative democrat. And he is also a participatory democrat who emphasizes participation through mobilization. This last a recurrent theme in his speeches.
2) This framing, spelled out in 1), is explicitly meant to pose a sharp contrast to Hillary Clinton's representation of politics as an elite driven enterprise, with Hillary representing herself as the heroine of the good elites primed now to do battle against the bad elites.
3) Why should progressives take Obama's metapolitics seriously? Two reasons. One is that it is an attempt to transform the political culture. That is, to break with the Clintonian style of responding reactively to the attack dog mode of Republican politics that aggressively sides with allies against enemies. The reactive Clintonian style simply reproduces this mode. The short hand for Obama's critique of this mode: "they are willing to say anything to win." The key idea, however, is that poltical culture should be geared less to the ally/enemy distinction and more to the idea that, the diversity of the polity notwithstanding, ordinary, democratically energized Americans can mobilize/debate their way towards common understandings of the common good. There is certainly room for race consciousness in all this, as when Obama did, finally, in the last debate, invoke the theme of racial justice, arguing that this is a theme that should concern all Americans.
4) A second, perhaps more important reason: that a successful transformation of the poltical culture along these lines (which Obama compares to Reagan's transformation of American political culture--an analogy that Hillary has gone out of her way deliberately to misrepresent) may be needed for the establishement of an enduring progressive coalition (in Obama's words--democrats, independents, and some Republicans) that, rather than constantly react to and compromise with post-Reagan Republican ideas (an important part of Bill Clinton's legacy, as is evident, e.g., in the compromise over welfare reform), articulates in new terms (talk of common sense and of a common good) a new progressive agenda. The insistence, in short, that overcoming a reactive political style is the indispensable first step moving towards the articulation of a nonreactive, progressive political agenda.
In sum, Obama disagrees with Clinton in thinking that a radical transformation of the poltical culture is necessary, if not sufficient, to promote a progressive agenda.
This is all very abstract, of course, but still valuable, I hope, as attempt to identify the key ideas that seem to animate the Obama campaigns political rhetoric.