Of course, Santorum, like nearly all former members of Congress, had a healthy income to draw on as he paid down that principal. His answer may resonate—and not in a good way—with the scads of jobless folks in the Silver State, where the unemployment rate of 13 percent leads the nation. Many here just plain don’t have Santorum’s money or the economic ability to suck it up.

Ralston’s show airs statewide on TV stations in Las Vegas, Reno, and Elko. And during a presidential election year—when the public’s interest in politics is heightened—the program’s reach clearly is well beyond just those who’ll be caucusing on Saturday. That’s important, since the wide-ranging discussions included further issues of importance to Silver State residents, such as online gambling and storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.

The interviewer’s pit bull approach did occasionally lead him astray. An exchange with Santorum about Yucca Mountain led to a glib question implying the former senator favored an unguarded and insecure facility—a suggestion Santorum quickly batted down.

And Ralston is prone to interrupting mid-sentence, which—unfortunately—leaves some important answers only partially finished. Most guests go with the flow, Paul chided his host in a brief exchange that, fittingly, included an interruption.

Paul: “You don’t let me get to finish my sentence—“

Ralston: “Okay, I’m sorry.”

Paul: “—before you interrupt.”

But those quibbles aside, the interviews were an important contribution to campaign coverage—and evidence of the value skeptical, aggressive local journalism can provide.

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Jay Jones is a Las Vegas-based freelance writer who has covered political campaigns for various media outlets in the U.S. and for the BBC in the U.K.