Julian E. Zelizer has an interesting article at CNN called When Nobel Prize rewarded failure. It contrasts President Obama with President Wilson and the cirumstances in how each was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
From the article:
On December 10, 1920, Albert Schmedeman, the American Minister to Norway, accepted the Nobel Prize on behalf of President Wilson, who was being honored for his work in creating the League of Nations. The president had first been nominated in 1918, but strong internal disagreement within the committee delayed his receiving the prize. It was his actual campaign to gain ratification for the League of Nations agreement in 1919 that persuaded the committee he had earned the recognition.
Schmedeman read a statement from Wilson, who was in poor health after suffering a stroke, that said: "In accepting the honor of your award, I am moved by the recognition of my sincere and earnest efforts in the cause of peace, but also by the very poignant humility before the vastness of the work still called for by this cause."
Wilson realized that the award came toward the end of a presidency where he had failed to achieve many of his goals. There was a certain irony that the prize was awarded right at the time that President Wilson had failed to persuade the U.S. Senate to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, the agreement signed at the end of World War I.