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You new here? Pawlenty foes invoke his absence

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Tim Pawlenty's opponents in the Minnesota governor's race are using every chance they get to remind voters that the former Republican governor's most recent job came with a Washington zip code.

On Wednesday, it was Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, a fellow Republican candidate, who made light of Pawlenty's extended absence while running the Financial Services Roundtable, a lobbying organization in Washington for nation's largest banks and credit card companies.

Johnson's jab came over Twitter in response to a Pawlenty tweet waxing nostalgic about the Minnesota North Stars 1981 run through the hockey playoffs.

The playful emoji aside, the other Republicans vying for the nomination and potential Democratic foes are piling on Pawlenty over the job and where it was based.

When Pawlenty entered the race last week, former Minnesota Republican Party Chair Keith Downey welcomed his new competitor to the field with a not-so-subtle swipe.

"After his long absence in Washington D.C., it's time for him to get back out in front of the people of Minnesota again," Downey said. "A lot has changed."

Pawlenty, who served two terms as governor ending in 2011, brushed off the criticism in a news conference Friday by stressing that he never fully uprooted.

"I'm 57-years-old, I've lived in Minnesota 57 years," he told reporters. "When I was in Washington, I commuted home from Washington nearly every weekend. And I never left this state. And I really didn't like Washington. If I did, I would have run for Senate."

A reporter pointed out that Pawlenty did run for president, albeit briefly, and asked if he would try for that office again.

"Absolutely not," Pawlenty said. "I can assure you that will not be in my future."