Chris Christie heads home to weigh 2016 campaign's future

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Chris Christie Going Back to N.J. To 'Take a Deep Breath'

NASHUA, New Hampshire — Gov. Chris Christie said he'll head home to New Jersey to decide the fate of his presidential bid after a disappointing low finish in Tuesday night's primary in the Granite State.

"We came here to say that speaking your mind matters, that experience matters, that competence matters, and that it will always matter in leading our nation," Christie told supporters at a primary night party. "That message was heard by a lot of folks and it was stood for by a lot of folks here in New Hampshire, just not enough. Not enough tonight."

SEE ALSO: Daily News unloads on Donald Trump's 'zombie' supporters after his New Hampshire win

Christie's concession speech seemed to signal an imminent departure from the race: "We want to see exactly what happens," he said. "Then it's going to allow us to make a decision."

The New Jersey governor seemed primed to be the race's brash, straight-talking candidate, but front-runner and New Hampshire's victor Donald Trump held that place in the race, leaving Christie polling in the single digits nationally. Still, the candidate said he saw sparks of promise after a strong debate performance on Saturday, when Christie derailed the surging Marco Rubio by portraying him as an empty suit reciting rehearsed talking points, and made a compelling case for a more-experienced candidate.

But the clash was more suicide than salvation for Christie, with voters instead flocking to his experienced rivals Gov. John Kasich and Gov. Jeb Bush, who came in second and third respectively here. As Christie threw tough punches at Rubio, which supporters and critics of the governor agreed came off a bit harsh, Kasich and Bush were able to boast of their own resumes, staying largely on message and positive.

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Chris Christie heads home to weigh 2016 campaign's future
Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talks as he meets with a supporter before a news conference Monday, Jan. 25, 2016, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie greets Fidelity Investments employees, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016, at their facility in Merrimack, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie listens to a briefing on a snowstorm during a visit to the New Jersey Department of Transportation Traffic Management and Technology Center, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in Woodbridge, N.J. Towns across the state are hunkering down during a major snowstorm that hit overnight. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Republican Presidential hopeful Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, DC, December 3, 2015. (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate, hosted by CNN, at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie steps off the bus with his wife Mary Pat during a campaign stop at the launch of his four day bus tour, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, speaks during a meet and greet with local residents, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Bettendorf, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during the APPS National Security Forum, Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a campaign event at the Glory Days Sports Bar and Grill in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Friday, Oct. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a No Labels Problem Solver convention, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talks with employees during a campaign stop at East Coast Lumber Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, in East Hampstead, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
THIS WEEK - 10/4/15 - Presidential candidate and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appears on THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, airing on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images)
Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, waves while waiting for Pope Francis, not pictured, to arrive for a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. Pope Francis, the first pontiff to address U.S. Congress, is preaching to a less-than-harmonious congregation as he faces a Congress riven by disputes over issues closest to his heart: income inequality, immigration and climate change. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appears on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to supporters during an event announcing he will seek the Republican nomination for president, Tuesday, June 30, 2015, at Livingston High School in Livingston, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0319 -- Pictured: (l-r) Governor Chris Christie during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on August 31, 2015 -- (Photo by: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talks with Joan Vlangas, left, during a campaign stop at a Greek festival in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
SQUAWK BOX -- Pictured: Governor Chris Christie in an interview on August 27, 2015 -- (Photo by: David Orrell/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie answers a question as he addresses a gathering at the Chabad House at Rutgers University Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, in New Brunswick, N.J. Christie urged Democratic Sen. Cory Booker and the state's congressional delegation to oppose the Iran deal, which is aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear weapons development.(AP Photo/Mel Evans)
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - AUGUST 25: New Jersey Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Chris Christie speaks at Chabad House at Rutgers University to express his opposition to President Obama's Iran deal on August 25, 2015 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Christie also encouraged U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to oppose the deal. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, talks with Joe Hedrick at the Iowa State Fair Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 22: Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tosses a pork burger on the grill at the Iowa Pork Producers Tent at the Iowa State Fair on August 22, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. Presidential candidates have a long tradition of making campaign stops at the fair. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Moderator Campbell Brown listens as Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during an education summit, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, in Londonderry, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, left, congratulates Triple Crown winner American Pharoah's trainer Bob Baffert after American Pharoah won the Haskell Invitational horse race at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015. Keen Ice was second. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talks with drivers in the garage area before the NASCAR Xfinity Series auto race, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015, at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appears on "The Five" television program, on the Fox News Channel, in New York, Wednesday, July 22, 2015, with two of the show's co-hosts Dana Perino and Greg Gutfeld, right.(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talks with supporters at a house party in Salem, N.H. Friday, July 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
New Jersey Gov. Gov. Chris Christie observes clients in the computer room at the hall during a tour of Volunteers of America Hope Hall as part of his focus on criminal justice reform, Thursday July 16, 2015 in Camden, N.J. Christie is calling for changes in the criminal justice system, seeking in part to give nonviolent drug offenders a better shot at rebuilding their lives and to improve frayed relations between communities and police. (Chris Pedota/Northjersey.com via AP, Pool)
Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to potential voters during a campaign town hall meeting, Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Rochester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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Christie's victory party — pegged "primary night headquarters" — had a grim, glum feel that seemed to circulate around a busy bar. Few smiles dotted the crowd despite the peppy music that included Journey's optimistic anthem "Don't Stop Believing." Few expected him to leave the race on Tuesday, instead hoping he could hold on for just a little bit longer.

The going gets a lot tougher after Tuesday night. Just five candidates leave New Hampshire with clear ticket forward: CBS News said Tuesday it will only allow the top five finishers in New Hampshire onto the stage of Saturday night's Republican debate in South Carolina.

"It's both the magic and mystery of politics that you never quite know which is going to happen," Christie said.

Christie joins former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who scored 4 percent of the race here after being excluded from last Saturday night's debate, and retired pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, who grabbed just 2 percent.

Carson never put much effort into wooing the Granite State, spending just a handful of days here while instead focusing on Iowa and South Carolina, states with strong evangelical voting blocks, while Fiorina made a concerted effort but struggled to capitalize on any momentum she might have seen when she was excluded from Saturday night's debate.

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Fiorina gave extremely brief remarks at her own watch party, calling on supporters to "fight with me" as she moves forward. She's vowed a long-term strategy and plans to head straight to Nevada now — skipping South Carolina — where she's polling poorly and seems unlikely to qualify for the debate.

Early Tuesday, just hours into voting, Fiorina's RV pulled up to a polling site in Bedford, New Hampshire where it was greeted but just a handful of journalists — much of the press was busy chasing Sen. Marco Rubio.

"When I started I was 17 out of 16," Fiorina said, firmly deflecting questions about how the low-polling candidate would go forward after what was expected to be another disappointing night. "We're going all the way."

See the candidates in New Hampshire:

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Chris Christie heads home to weigh 2016 campaign's future
US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders celebrates victory during a primary night rally in Concord, New Hampshire, on February 9, 2016. Political novice Donald Trump and self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire's presidential primaries Tuesday, US media projected, turning the American political establishment on its head early in the long nominations battle. / AFP / Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
With his wife Karen at his side Republican presidential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich cheers with supporters Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Concord, N.H., at his primary night rally. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to supporters on primary election night, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Hollis, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie thanks supporters during a primary night rally in Nashua, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., fist bumps his son Dominick Rubio, 8, after speaking at his primary night rally at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, N.H., on Tuesday Feb. 9, 2016. With him is his family Amanda Rubio, 15, Anthony Rubio, 10, Daniella Rubio, 13, and wife Jeanette Dousdebes. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a primary night rally, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. At his side are his wife Melania Trump, left, and daughter Ivanka Trump, right. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
HOOKSETT, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at her primary night gathering at Southern New Hampshire University on February 9, 2016 in Hooksett, New Hampshire. Rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) was projected the winner shortly after the polls closed. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks after Primary day at his election night watch party at the Executive Court Banquet facility on February 9, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Trump was projected the Republican winner shortly after the polls closed. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - February 9: Republican presidential candidate Governor Chris Christie visits voters at T-Bones Great American Eatery in Derry, New Hampshire on February 9, 2016. (Meredith Dake-O'Connor/CQ Roll Call)
NASHUA, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets voters outside of a polling station at Fairgrounds Junior High School on February 9, 2016 in Nashua, New Hampshire. New Hampshire voters are heading to the polls in the nation's first primaries. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
John Kasich, governor of Ohio and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, center, greets voters while arriving with his wife Karen Waldbillig Kasich, left, at a polling station at Broken Gound Elementary School in Concord, New Hampshire, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Voters in New Hampshire took to the polls today in the nation's first primary in the U.S. presidential race. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images
MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz crosses his fingers as he speaks to a supporter following a campaign stop on February 9, 2016 at the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, NH. Voters throughout the state are heading to the polls as the New Hampshire Primary, also known as the first-in-the-nation primary, continues the process of selecting the next president of the United States. (Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump greets supporters as he takes the stage during a primary night rally, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
CONCORD, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) walks through downtown Concord on election day on February 9, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. Sanders, who is expected to win over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, greeted voters before taking a short walk where he was mobbed by members of the media. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Writer George Zornick of The Nation is interviewed by Ari Rabin-Havt at SiriusXM Red Diner Broadcasts from New Hampshire Primary Coverage Live on February 9, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Republican presidential candidate Jim Gilmore outside the polling place at Webster School on primary day February 9, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Candidates from both parties are making last-minute attempts to swing voters to their side on the day of the 'First in the Nation' presidential primary. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
CONCORD, NH - FEBRUARY 09: democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders walks through downtown Concord on election day on February 9, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. Sanders, who is expected to win over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, greeted voters before taking a short walk where he was mobbed by members of the media. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Carly Fiorina, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, left, stands for a photograph behind her campaign RV after visiting a polling station in Bedford, New Hampshire, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Voters in New Hampshire took to the polls today in the nation's first primary in the U.S. presidential race. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush greets voters outside the polling place at Webster School on primary day February 9, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Candidates from both parties are making last-minute attempts to swing voters to their side on the day of the 'First in the Nation' presidential primary. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida and 2016 presidential candidate, greets campaign volunteers outside a polling station in Bedford, New Hampshire, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Voters in New Hampshire took to the polls today in the nation's first primary in the U.S. presidential race. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, center, greets a resident during a visit to a polling station in Bedford, New Hampshire, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Voters in New Hampshire took to the polls today in the nation's first primary in the U.S. presidential race. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
DERRY, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) poses for a picture with Frank Fiorina, husband of republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, outside of a polling station at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School on February 9, 2016 in Derry, New Hampshire. New Hampshire voters are heading to the polls in the nation's first primaries. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) steps off his campaign bus outside the polling place at Webster School to thank supporters February 9, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. With a good showing in the Iowa caucuses, Rubio has stepped into the crosshairs of fellow Republicans running for president and super PACs that want to slow his momentum with attacks on what they call his robotic and repetative messaging. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks to the crowd during a rally February 8, 2016 in Manchester, NH. US presidential candidates, including billionaire Donald Trump and under-pressure Democrat Hillary Clinton, criss-crossed snowy New Hampshire in a final frantic bit to win over undecided voters before Tuesday's crucial primary. / AFP / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich shake hands as he visits a polling station at the high school, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Donald Trumps poses for a photo at Webster Elementary School in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Jill Colvin)
Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie shakes hands with supporters of Donald Trump while visiting a polling station on New Hampshire primary day during a campaign stop in Londonderry, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks with voters outside of Webster Elementary School in Manchester, N.H.,Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Sanz)
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Walking through the middle school serving as a polling place, Fiorina shook hands with a woman.

"Thank you for your support!" Fiorina said, beaming and shaking the woman's hand before heading off to greet poll workers.

But after she walked away, Michelle Flynn, 51, admitted that she hadn't voted for her.

"I voted for Rubio," she admitted in hushed tones. "I love her platform, I just felt like where she was polling she was fighting upstream so hard."

More on NBCNews.com:
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