Pawlenty eyes return to national stage but in a new GOP era

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) -- Not long ago, in a seemingly distant political universe, Tim Pawlenty was a fresh-faced Republican star with blue-collar appeal and presidential prospects.

The former Minnesota governor is now a high-powered banking lobbyist, and he's eyeing a climb back onto the national stage.

An unexpected Senate election next year, created by Democrat Al Franken's resignation after sexual harassment allegations, has created the opening. Some GOP power players see Pawlenty as their best chance to take a Senate seat in a Democratic-leaning state.

A comeback bid could test whether a mild-mannered, establishment Republican and once-vocal critic of President Donald Trump fits into the Trump-era GOP.

Pawlenty has said he is "reflecting" on the Senate race, 11 years since he last ran in Minnesota and six years since his short-lived presidential campaign fizzled.

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