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“We refused to throw in the towel and do nothing. We refused to let Detroit go bankrupt,” Mr. Obama said in a weekly address in October. “We bet on American workers and American ingenuity, and three years later, that bet is paying off in a big way.”

During the campaign, Mr. Obama portrayed Republican opponent Mitt Romney as favoring bankruptcy for Detroit automakers. Mr. Romney said he favored a managed bankruptcy process from which the car companies could emerge leaner by shedding burdensome union contracts, real estate costs and other obligations.

Although city leaders have pleaded with the president for help, Michigan’s congressional delegation hasn’t pushed for a federal bailout.

“We just need to step back and think about it,” said Rep. Sander M. Levin, Michigan Democrat.

Mr. Obama will use the stops in Illinois and Missouri to make his case for spending on infrastructure and for universal preschool programs. He also is expected to highlight the economic benefits of comprehensive immigration reform.

The White House chose Knox College as the site of Mr. Obama’s speech Wednesday because it’s the same place where he delivered his first economic speech on the national stage, as a U.S. senator in 2005.