[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/30/art.pawlenty0730.gi.jpg caption="Sen. Olympia Snowe is part of the bipartisan so-called 'Gang of Six' negotiating on health care."](CNN) - New Jersey Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie gets a helping hand today from a high profile surrogate.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will join Christie on the campaign trail at a meet and greet with volunteers in Bergen County, New Jersey. It's an event that will be seen by many who cover national politics as the latest high profile step for Pawlenty toward a possible run for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.
Last month Pawlenty was the keynote speaker at a major dinner hosted by the Republican Party of Florida. In July, he addressed top party members at a Republican National Committee conference in San Diego. Next month, Pawlenty heads back to California, as a featured speaker at the Western Conservative Political Action Conference.
Earlier this summer, the two term governor announced he would not run next year for a third term, a move seen by many as a signal that Pawlenty is interested in running for the White House. Since that announcement, Pawlenty has stepped up his criticism of President Barack Obama.
"It is time we stand up to President Obama," Pawlenty said to members of the Republican National Committee last month. "It is time we stand up for our principles, and it is time we stand up for the American people."
In July, he teamed up with House Minority Leader John Boehner to release a report that took aim at Democratic plans for health care reform. Since then, Pawlenty has increased his opposition to health care reform proposals supported by Obama and congressional Democrats.
New Jersey and Virginia are the only states holding gubernatorial contests this year. Democrats are defending both seats. While local issues and the candidates themselves will dictate these two contests, they also have national implications, as Republicans try to make the two races a referendum on Obama and the Democrats who control Congress.