1. He's educated. (Not to be confused with "ed-ju-cated," Mr. Bush). Academics like that he attended Columbia, occasionally famous for its radical politics; and Harvard, where he served as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. After all, most academics who love him were themselves rejected by Columbia and Harvard, so Obama MUST be smart.
2. When talking about Iraq and Iran, he pronounces it "ear-rock" and "ear-ron" -- not "eye-rack" and "eye-ran." (Thanks, Mr. Bush, for bringing this to our attention). This matters to academics. This also matters to Arabic- and Farsi-speaking peoples, and to the Middle East in general. Academics hate to offend "oppressed" peoples by pronouncing words wrong.
3. He's not white. No, really, I'm serious. Virtually half of academic departments in the social sciences and humanities were established to symbolize the end of the domination of white Western civilization. Nevermind that most academics are white. Think of "Area Studies" departments and their quest to bring a voice to "subaltern" (i.e. non-white) peoples. Think of the obsession of post-colonial literature and theory, which analyzes human culture from the point of view of former colonial subjects. Think of the proliferation of Black Studies departments, and compare that with the lack of White Studies departments. Academics love Barack Obama because he's black and because Africans love him, but most of all because it seems to them that they did, after all, make racial equality a reality in American culture and politics.
4. He's liberal. This should be obvious, but it requires an explanation in relation to the academic world. Academics are the hardest working and most educated poor people on the planet (well, at least in the West, which many nevertheless try to subvert). Obama's promise of welfare expansion and universal healthcare is greeted with adulation by academics. First and foremost, their intellectual convictions make them care about poor people more than most other demographics do. Perhaps, too, academics need welfare checks so they can continue to rent pricey apartments two blocks from campus, and so they can keep going to
*Not recently, anyway. And not unless they depend on American goodwill.
**This statement may or may not be exaggerated.