ASBURY PARK, N.J. - Gov. Christie was flying home from Montana, after raising money for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, when he got an e-mail from the man himself.

Call me when you land, Romney told Christie.

"So when I landed, I called him," Christie said Monday. "He told me that he decided to go in a different direction for vice president, asked me if I would be willing to do the keynote address [at the Republican convention]. I told him that I would be."

That was Aug. 10, the night before Romney announced U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate.

On a sunny boardwalk here in Monmouth County, before dozens of mostly supportive beachcombers, Christie held a news conference Monday afternoon in which he offered his first comments about being passed over for the job of Republican vice presidential nominee.

Asked whether he was disappointed or relieved, Christie said neither word applied.

"I told people all along I didn't want to be vice president," he said. "It's like being asked out on a date: If you're asked, you don't have to say 'yes.' I don't know what I would have done if he had asked me."

And to the thrill of the crowd, he added: "I love this job, and I have no interest in heading off to Washington, D.C."

Brushing aside criticism he has received since his selection to speak at the convention, Christie accused reporters, Democrats, and legislative analysts from the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services of spreading falsehoods about recent state economic data.

Preliminary jobs numbers released Thursday showed that New Jersey's unemployment rate in July was 9.8 percent. If that rate holds when a final analysis of the July numbers is completed in March, it would be the highest monthly rate in 35 years.

The Office of Legislative Services, which provides research assistance to legislators, also estimated last week that state revenue in July was hundreds of millions of dollars below forecasts.

Combined, Democrats said, the news proved that the slogan Christie has been using - "the New Jersey Comeback has Begun" - was bogus.

But Monday, Christie said the left was reading the numbers incorrectly.

Unemployment numbers are often adjusted downward later - as happened in the fall of 2009 - and he is confident the latest rate will be lowered, too, he said. The preliminary figure, he noted, is based on a survey of Americans, not concrete data.

By comparing July's preliminary number to finalized data from any past month, Christie said, reporters compared apples to oranges.

"But it makes a really nice headline for you guys to write a negative story about it. . . . If you write something nice, you're afraid, for godsakes, people might be happy for five minutes," he said.

Christie accused the reporter who asked about the unemployment rate of trying to "see if we can get a charge out of the old man today."

Gathered behind the reporters, the boardwalk crowd cheered Christie's media-bashing. "Stop the sensationalism because it's really getting old," the governor said.

Christie blamed the continued economic malaise on business' uncertainty about taxes because Democrats refuse to give him a tax cut in light of the poor revenue numbers.

While the state's "comeback" is not complete, he acknowledged, it has definitely "begun," pointing out that private-sector jobs had been added in nine of the last 11 months. Democrats are just "rooting for failure."

"You couldn't swing a cat by the tail last week and not hit an excited Democrat," he said.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) called the governor's remarks "laughable" and "misleading," noting that the Garden State lost 12,000 jobs last month, more than in any other state.

"Instead of working on a plan to fix our skyrocketing unemployment rate, Gov. Christie is trying to distract people from his administration's complete failure on this issue," Sweeney said in a statement.

He also noted that Christie used preliminary unemployment data to criticize his gubernatorial opponent, former Gov. Jon S. Corzine, in 2009.

If he had not been successful in New Jersey, Christie said at Monday's news conference, he would not have been picked for the keynote.

"If you're not doing a good job, I don't think they want to put you in front of a national TV audience as the person who's going to lay out the vision for the Republican Party for the next four years," he said.

Christie would not detail what he planned to say, but he exhorted the crowd to "watch New Jersey on national television tell the rest of the country how to run government."

He is on the seventh draft of the speech, he said, and has shown it to a small circle of four insiders, plus his family, to make sure it's authentic.

"Does this sound like me?" he asks them.

Christie took a walk on the boardwalk, raspberry smoothie in hand, after the news conference. He posed for pictures, shook hands, and ignored at least one heckler, who said: "Right-wing bigots don't belong in Asbury Park!"

That he kept his cool was notable. In Seaside Heights last month, Christie appeared to go after someone who yelled something at him while he walked along eating an ice cream cone.

Christie's reaction, caught on video, ended up on the gossip site and its syndicated TV show. It was widely speculated that the outburst may have led Romney to look elsewhere for a running mate.

But Christie said he had not been told to dial down his personality for the big speech.

Without saying whether the Romney camp was vetting his speech, Christie said" "They know what they're buying."

"I don't think they have any expectation, nor have they requested that I have a personality-ectomy by next Tuesday," he said.