Obama campaign manager: Christie would be 'very strong' 2016 candidate

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would be a "very strong" general election candidate, but is likely to struggle in the 2016 GOP primaries, former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Sunday.

"Gov. Christie, this is probably a kiss of death for him, for me to say this, he would potentially be a very strong general election candidate," Plouffe told ABC News's "This Week." 

But the former White House adviser warned that "in the current Republican Party," a more centrist candidate like Christie "can't win." And, Plouffe said, decisions like the one last week to bar NBC and CNN from hosting Republican presidential debates were "completely foolish" because it would draw candidates further to the right.

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"What's going to be said on those stages to secure the Republican nomination is going to cause huge problems in the general election," Plouffe said. "It happened with Mitt Romney, it will happen in '16."

Appearing earlier on the same program, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus defended the decision, saying he did not want to partner with networks that were planning to air programming about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who may seek the Democratic presidential nomination.

"The fact of the matter is I've got to protect this party and our nominees," Priebus said. "We don't want a whole lot of 23 debate rounds like we've had before … These guys are making it a lot easier for us to pare that down to a reasonable number in front of people and entities that actually give a darn about the future of the Republican Party."

Plouffe, however, said that Republicans were "retrenching" after their electoral defeat.

"They're fighting amongst themselves," Plouffe said. "And I don't actually think that's a bad thing. I think spirited — I actually agree, that's a good thing to have. The problem is after November, largely people say the Republican Party has to rehabilitate a little bit to address some of these demographic challenges. They're not rehabilitating. They're doubling down."