TRENTON, N.J. — Tim Pawlenty is the third GOP presidential hopeful to come calling on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The former Minnesota governor had dinner with Christie at the governor's mansion in Princeton on Thursday. A Christie confidante who was at the table described the dinner as "a social chat."

The adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the event was private, said there was no discussion of an endorsement.

"It was a get-to-know-you session," said the adviser.

Christie has hosted similar dinners for Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney this year.

Other Republican presidential aspirants are expected to come courting in the months ahead.

Pawlenty recently announced his intention to form a presidential exploratory committee, but has not announced a presidential campaign.

Christie has repeatedly denied any interest in running for president or being vice president in 2012.

He unseated incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine to win the New Jersey governorship in 2009. Within 14 months, pundits were dropping his name regularly as a possible presidential candidate.

A national Fairleigh Dickinson-PublicMind Poll taken late last month showed that Christie could give President Barack Obama a tough fight if he chose to run. The same poll showed Pawlenty trailing by double-digits.

Pawlenty named Christie among five potential running mates in an interview the day after the dinner, but he said the names "are just examples."

The adviser said the vice presidential nomination wasn't discussed during the dinner.

Spokespeople for Christie and Pawlenty didn't return messages for comment.

Republicans who have declared an interest in running against Obama would covet Christie's backing both for his rock-star status within the party and for his enviable fundraising skills. He got his start on the national stage as a fundraiser for George W. Bush, who later named him New Jersey's top federal prosecutor.