Countering experts who see the tribute as premature, Mr. Patino's colleague, Juan Manuel Montano, says that as leader of the most influential country in the world, Obama can make more of a difference with the prize. "He is looking for ways to build relationships with countries around the world, including Mexico," says Mr. Montano.
But Obama's ability to deliver on that hope is what troubles some observers.
"I couldn't believe it," says a Scandinavian diplomat whose wife called him Friday with the news. "I actually felt a little embarrassed for Obama, and for the Nobel committee. He [Obama] is going to have to accept this with the acknowledgement that he has still to earn it."
That sentiment was echoed in Britain, where the US president still enjoys high levels of approval. "He is a great, eloquent speaker and people admire that, but Tony Blair was also very eloquent, and many Britons are now cynical about what [Blair] ultimately achieved," says Dominic Dyer, executive director of the American European Institute in London.