Bill Kristol: Mike Huckabee would beat Chris Christie in a Republican primary
Bill Kristol 012014 [CNN]

Conservative pundit Bill Kristol seemed to distance himself on Monday from endorsing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) as a presidential candidate in 2016, instead offering former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) as a more electable contender.

"Mike Huckabee would beat Chris Christie right now for the Republican nomination," Kristol told Crossfire host Van Jones. "Which isn't to say that Chris Christie wouldn't be a strong candidate, as well. [Wisconsin Gov.] Scott Walker would be a strong candidate; [Indiana Gov.] Mike Pence would be a strong candidate."

"You're throwing [Christie] under the bus already," Jones shot back.

Kristol also rejected Jones' description of Christie as a Republican "superstar,' scoffing that "the world of liberal media and rich donors" was painting Christie in that light. He did not mention his September 2011 column in the Weekly Standard saying Christie was a better choice than the GOP field at the time.

"With the magnitude and urgency of the problems we face, don't we deserve someone with a bigger sense of the task ahead, and a deeper sense of the solutions needed, combined with a proven record of bold governance, than the current field provides?" Kristol wrote.

Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, pointed out that under state law, Christie can install more appointees into key positions, giving him more power than most governors.

"You really can actually just be a politician in that state, as opposed to governing," Rosen said. "And what everybody says about Chris Christie for the last year-and-a-half is that he is completely focused on beefing up his margins, running for president, masquerading everything that he was doing, to help him. That's the point that [Hoboken Mayor] Dawn Zimmer's raising."

"I think New Jersians would disagree with you and say that he's done a lot for the state," co-host S.E. Cupp interjected.

"The point that Dawn Zimmer raises, though, is important," Rosen responded. "What she's saying is, 'Look, he's using the cronyism for extra purposes.'"

"We have to believe her for that to be an important revelation," Cupp said.

Watch the discussion, as aired Monday on CNN, below.