Something’s been missing from all the Republican presidential debates this fall. It certainly hasn’t been fireworks among the candidates, which headlined the historic clash in Las Vegas; it hasn’t been unclassy behavior by audience members, of which there’s been more than enough; nor has it been misleading statements about policy, especially when it comes to the HPV vaccine and other scientific matters.

Only a few moments into watching tonight’s CNBC debate, though, I realized what the missing ingredient has been: A ticker!

When so much of the debate has been about the economy, how can you possibly present a marketplace of presidential ideas without representing the marketplace itself?

CNBC heeded the call by running a ticker throughout Wednesday night’s clash. And boy did it ever contribute. An example of a classic CNBC ticker contribution: At one point in the evening, candidate Mitt Romney was talking about housing policy and its relation to jobs growth and the like. At that moment, the ticker flashed, “Platinum 1622.00”

Just moments later, Michele Bachmann was talking about something else. At that moment, the ticker flashed, “Platinum 1618.74.” Perhaps Platinum didn’t like Romney’s comments on housing.

When Bachmann later talked about how money should be “flooding into” the trust fund, what was the ticker showing? Something topical: “Nymex Crude 95.51” Jon Hunstman later talked about the need to “fire the engines” of growth. What did the ticker give us? “Oil Search 6.3”

Great moment for the ticker: Newt Gingrich at one point started raving about an iron lung. Just seconds later, the ticker had this to say: “Jinan Iron 41.60.” Psychic!

Perhaps the moment of greatest glory: Herman Cain goes on a riff about how the “tax code sends jobs overseas.” Then Romney jumps in and says that China is “cheating.” What surfaces on the ticker right in the middle of all of this stuff about free trade? You won’t believe it, but here it is: “Shanghai Composite 2498.84.” Can a TV operation possibly bring more data relevance to the topic at hand?

The ticker, it must be said, didn’t excel at all moments. “Palm Oil 2971.00” got a nice play during a Bachmann rant in the first half of the debate, but I couldn’t find a thematic adjacency. And when Gingrich was talking about mortgages, the ticker gave us a number for Lynas Corp., a company that describes itself this way:

Lynas Corporation Ltd is an ASX 100 listed company, with the strategy to create a reliable, fully integrated source of Rare Earths from mine through to market, and to become the benchmark for the security of supply and environmental standards in the global Rare Earths industry.

Not much relevance there to mortgages or, for that matter, anything that gets discussed at a Republican debate.

Yet on a night when the candidates sputtered at key moments, the ticker remained steady for two hours, letting us know with all of its red “down” symbols just how critical is a prolonged debate on the economy and jobs. A bravura performance, and one that’ll likely get little mention by the post-debate pundit crowd.