Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels delivered the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, to the delight of GOP insiders who still hope he might run for president. The national platform offered Daniels an opportunity to back up the hype — pundits routinely praise the former Bush budget director as a serious, thoughtful conservative, and this was his chance to prove it.

Alas, he blew it.

I remember about nine months ago, when Joe Klein dismissed the Republican presidential field as a “dim-witted freak show,” and urged Daniels to run because he seems to respect himself enough not to behave like a “public clown.”

But at least on a substantive level, that’s exactly what the Indiana governor did last night.

Daniels said President Obama made the economy “worse,” which no sane person could possibly believe (even Mitt Romney believes the economy has “gotten better” under Obama). Daniels equated our debt to the Greek crisis, which is ridiculous. He argued that Steve Jobs created more American jobs than the Recovery Act, which is demonstrably wrong. Daniels accused Obama of supporting “a pro-poverty policy,” which is the kind of nonsense I might expect from Glenn Beck, not a prominent public official.

But there were two other claims that stood out for me. First, there was this gem:

“In three short years, an unprecedented explosion of spending, with borrowed money, has added trillions to an already unaffordable national debt.”

Actually, the biggest drivers of our unaffordable national debt are the Bush-era tax cuts that didn’t work. Daniels should be able to understand this — he was Bush’s budget director when the administration demanded tax cuts we couldn’t afford. If forced to choose one person who bears most of the responsibility for the size of the U.S. national debt, one of the leading contenders would have to be Mitch Daniels.

This was the other:

“In word and deed, the President and his allies tell us that we just cannot handle ourselves in this complex, perilous world without their benevolent protection. Left to ourselves, we might pick the wrong health insurance, the wrong mortgage, the wrong school for our kids; why, unless they stop us, we might pick the wrong light bulb!”

Obama had just finished talking about cutting red tape and eliminating unnecessary regulations; the Affordable Care Act guarantees consumer choices in health care coverage; and the light-bulb bill the right is still whining about was a bipartisan success signed by Daniels’ former boss: George W. Bush.

Honestly, the fact that this is what passes for seriousness in the Republican Party in 2012 is not at all a good sign.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.