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(NBC NEWS) -- When the president hits the stage at Knox College in Illinois Wednesday, he will play up the economy, the main theme of his upcoming tour across the nation.

This is where he made his first "big speech" in 2005 after being elected to the Senate. "To refocus on the economy and the struggles that middle-class families are going through, but also for us to start exploring some big and bold ideas," said President Barack Obama.

The series of speeches come as Congress and the White House prepare for fiscal showdowns in the fall.

They'll focus on efforts to revitalize the housing industry, expand manufacturing and sign up the uninsured for health care coverage. "October 1st, we are going to be able to sign up people for these marketplaces that are going to give people a square deal when it comes to their health insurance," said President Barack Obama.

Across the country, cash-strapped cities like Detroit and Chicago will be listening. Perhaps a bit more tuned in after dealing with bankruptcy filings and credit downgrades, but Republicans point to the major fiscal deadline ahead. "The national debt and deficit continue to be the sword of Damocles that overhangs literally everything we do," said Senator John McCain, (R) Arizona.

"These speeches are not working. These speeches are not creating jobs. These speeches are not hiring. And we need to try something new," said RNC Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski.

Harsh criticism aimed at the Obama Administration's attempt to change the focus in Washington.