NEW YORK (Reuters) -- President Barack Obama poked fun at Republican presidential candidates on Monday for promising that they could stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin when they couldn't "handle" the moderators from last week's debate on cable network CNBC.

Republican candidates Donald Trump, Ben Carson and others have criticized the journalists who moderated the well-watched debate for what they said was a failure to ask relevant questions.

Obama, speaking at a fundraiser for Democrats in New York, knocked the Republicans seeking the White House for saying they could turn around ties with Putin, with whom the president has a strained relationship.

"And then it turns out they can’t handle a bunch of CNBC moderators,” Obama said to loud applause from the audience of Democratic donors.

“If you can’t handle those guys, then I don’t think the Chinese and the Russians are going to be too worried about you.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Leslie Adler)