Rubio: 'I dropped the ball'

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Christie on Rubio's Debate Performance

After claiming for days that nothing went wrong, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) directly said Tuesday that he made a mistake in last weekend's primary debate.

"On Saturday night at the debate, I dropped the ball," Rubio wrote to his supporters. "I want you to know that will never happen again."

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Rubio performed strongly in last week's Iowa caucuses, defying polls to come in third and just behind national front-runner Donald Trump.

But then the knives came out for the presidential candidate, and many of his rivals started pounding him.

Notably, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) confronted Rubio at the Saturday debate. Christie ripped Rubio as an inexperienced politician who recited only canned lines. Rubio responded by repeating a line, which many observers interpreted as a gaffe but Rubio said was intentional.

RELATED GALLERY: See photos from Saturday's GOP debate

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Rubio: 'I dropped the ball'
MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 06: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participates in the Republican presidential debate at St. Anselm College February 6, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Sponsored by ABC News, the Independent Journal Review and Google, this is the final televised debate before voters go to the polls for the New Hampshire primary on February 9. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks during the Republican Presidential Candidates Debate on February 6, 2016 at St. Anselm's College Institute of Politics in Manchester, New Hampshire. Seven Republicans campaigning to be US president are in a fight for survival in their last debate Saturday before the New Hampshire primary, battling to win over a significant number of undecided voters. / AFP / Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump (R) and Chris Christie (L) confer during a break in the Republican Presidential Candidates Debate February 6, 2016 at St. Anselm's College Institute of Politics in Manchester, New Hampshire. Seven Republicans campaigning to be US president are in a fight for survival in their last debate Saturday before the New Hampshire primary, battling to win over a significant number of undecided voters. / AFP / Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) walks past fellow candidate Marco Rubio (L) prior to the start of the Republican Presidential Candidates Debate on February 6, 2016 at St. Anselm's College Institute of Politics in Manchester, New Hampshire. Seven Republicans campaigning to be US president are in a fight for survival in their last debate Saturday before the New Hampshire primary, battling to win over a significant number of undecided voters. / AFP / Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 06: Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Governor Chris Christie participates in the Republican presidential debate at St. Anselm College February 6, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Sponsored by ABC News, the Independent Journal Review and Google, this is the final televised debate before voters go to the polls for the New Hampshire primary on February 9. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 06: Activists calling for a raise in the minimum wage rally outside the last Republican presidential debate before the New Hampshire primaries on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. New Hampshire voters will vote in the state's republican and democratic primaries on Tuesday, February 9, 2016. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, IA - FEBRUARY 06: People wait in line to enter the Republican presidential debate at St. Anselm College February 6, 2016 in Manchester, Iowa. Sponsored by ABC News, the Independent Journal Review and Google, this is the final televised debate before voters go to the polls in the 'First in the Nation' New Hampshire primary. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 06: Republican presidential candidate Ohio Governor John Kasich takes the stage for the Republican presidential debate at St. Anselm College February 6, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Sponsored by ABC News, the Independent Journal Review and Google, this is the final televised debate before voters go to the polls for the New Hampshire primary on February 9. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 06: Activists calling for a raise in the minimum wage rally outside the last Republican presidential debate before the New Hampshire primaries on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. New Hampshire voters will vote in the state's republican and democratic primaries on Tuesday, February 9, 2016. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 06: Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) participate in the Republican presidential debate at St. Anselm College February 6, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Sponsored by ABC News, the Independent Journal Review and Google, this is the final televised debate before voters go to the polls for the New Hampshire primary on February 9. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
This multiple exposure picture shows candidates participating in the Republican Presidential Candidates Debate on February 6, 2016 at St. Anselm's College Institute of Politics in Manchester, New Hampshire. Seven Republicans campaigning to be US president are in a fight for survival in their last debate Saturday before the New Hampshire primary, battling to win over a significant number of undecided voters. / AFP / JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
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With 89% of returns in Wednesday morning, Rubio looked as if he would finish in fifth place in New Hampshire after his supporters hoped his third-place finish in Iowa would propel him to second in the Granite State. In his concession speech Tuesday night, Rubio also said he could have done better at the debate.

"I'm disappointed with tonight," Rubio told his supporters. "But I want you to understand something: Our disappointment tonight is not on you. It's on me. It's on me. I did not do well on Saturday night. So listen to this: That will never happen again! That will never happen again."

Rubio also struck a strong optimistic note both in his speech and in his note to supporters. The senator vowed to win both the Republican nomination and the White House.

"We are heading to South Carolina, Nevada and beyond. Make no mistake: We are going to win this nomination," Rubio wrote. "I know how to come from behind," he added.

View his full message to supporters below:

Friend,

On Saturday night at the debate, I dropped the ball. I want you to know that will never happen again.

We are heading to South Carolina, Nevada and beyond. Make no mistake: We are going to win this nomination.

Throughout my life, I've known tough times. In New Hampshire tonight, I told the story of how when I was young, at one point, my father lost his job as an apartment manager and my family had to move out of our Miami apartment, all in the same week. He had to move clear across the country to Las Vegas to look for work, and the job he finally found, after 20 years as a bartender who'd finally moved his way up a bit, had him starting from scratch again as a busboy.

I know how to come from behind. We're going to show America what leadership and a vision for a New American Century look like.

Friend, if you heard what Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton said tonight, you know the stakes: If one of them wins this fall, they will keep up President Obama's efforts to change our country beyond recognition.

I shudder to think what another eight years of President Obama's liberal leadership and lawless actions will look like. Friend, this is our chance to ensure that doesn't happen.

I am the only conservative candidate who can unite our party and beat Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders this fall.

If you want a Republican White House next year instead, with the ideas we need to restore America in the 21st Century, then I need your support.

Again, this is just the beginning. I hope I'll have your support as we continue this journey.

Marco

NOW WATCH: Marco Rubio keeps repeating himself — he did it again in New Hampshire on Monday

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