"I've never thought, contrary to popular belief, that my power was unlimited," Christie said Wednesday morning at a news conference in Sussex County. "We're in a democracy, guys. And elections that happen with gerrymandered maps have gerrymandered results."
The election of all 120 legislative seats Tuesday ended with no change in party ratio in the Senate and one Democratic pickup in the Assembly - in the newly redrawn (and more Democratic) South Jersey Third District of losing Assemblyman Domenick DiCicco (R., Gloucester).
"When you have a governor who has approval ratings at 58 percent statewide and you can't have one new representative elected in the Legislature, I think it tells you everything you need to know about the map," Christie said.
But Democrats said the election showed that Christie's approval ratings hadn't lifted other Republicans. They said Christie did little work to help his fellow Garden State Republicans - as evidenced by a cookie-cutter commercial used by several candidates and his absence last week while he was campaigning in Mississippi. "What this shows is Chris Christie is all coat and no tail," Wisniewski said. "It shows the shine is coming off the Christie penny."
New Jerseyans might go to a Christie town hall meeting "in case the governor yells at somebody," but they want "rational adults" making policy decisions, he said.
In an indication that the tone of Trenton will not change with this new legislature, Christie retorted: "I know John; he must be rubbing his head coming up with these really pithy quotes, because he doesn't spend any time helping the people of New Jersey." Christie said he worked hard in districts where he thought he could help and noted that Republicans did so well in local races that they now hold more county offices than Democrats.
For example, although Assemblyman Vincent Polistina (R., Atlantic) lost his bid to unseat longtime Sen. Jim Whelan (D., Atlantic), Republicans did win other Atlantic County-level races such as sheriff, freeholder, and county executive.
Whelan said people didn't vote for him as a way to send a message to Christie. "I think it was about local issues," he said.
Rider University political scientist Ben Dworkin called Tuesday "a very disappointing night" for the governor because he raised more money than Democrats and put "his personal reputation on the line" by airing TV ads in New York and Philadelphia.
"And in the end, he wasn't able to even keep the status quo in the Legislature, much less win the several seats," Dworkin wrote in an e-mail.
Christie has shown a remarkable ability to peel off Democratic votes to support major proposals, so lacking more Republicans in the Legislature might not hinder his ability to push his agenda.
In coming months, Christie will try to cajole Democrats into supporting his education proposals.
Key to that support will be South Jersey Democrats, who have at times crossed party lines. But a closer look at the results from Tuesday indicates that two of those senators - Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) and Donald Norcross (D., Camden) - did not win with the majorities they're accustomed to.
Sweeney got 55 percent of the vote, compared with 57 percent in 2007. Norcross brought in 56 percent, compared with 63 percent in his special election last year.
"I don't think there's anything to read into that," Wisniewski said.
Meanwhile, Christie is back on the campaign trail - although not in New Jersey. He went to New Hampshire on Wednesday afternoon to stump for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Contact staff writer Matt Katz at 609-217-8355, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @mattkatz00 on Twitter. Read his blog, "Christie Chronicles," at philly.com/christiechronicles.
Inquirer staff writer Maya Rao contributed to this article.