Candidates Soothe Debate-Day Jitters With Exercise and Movies

On the day of what could be a pivotal debate,  top GOP presidential contenders have each taken their own tack in fighting their debate-day jitters.

Rick Perry took to the treadmill. Mitt Romney opted for a conference room chat. Rick Santorum stuck to the campaign trail. And newly-established front-runner Newt Gingrich polished his proverbial body armor for what will surely be a night of attacks from his fellow candidates.

Tonight will be the tenth time these six candidates have squared off on the national debate stage , but with the stakes high just three weeks before the Iowa caucus some candidates tried a new tactic to prepare themselves.

Romney spent about two hours this morning preparing by talking current events around a conference table with his advisors before making a surprise visit to Iowa campaign headquarters. Friday  night he took it easy, watching the movie "The Help" which he said was "powerful."

Santorum did his debate prep on the move, chatting with his policy aides and family members as he traveled from event to event around Iowa.

"Rick is not really a preparer in the traditional sense," campaign national communications director Hogan Gidley said. There will be no debate run-through before he takes the stage. "He is his own policy guru. He's doing this long enough. He doesn't need to fall back on consultants to know what to say and to know the message he wants to get across."

Unlike previous debates Santorum's wife will not be in the audience, although his two eldest children, Elizabeth and John, will be.

Perry's wife will also be a rare no-show at tonight's debate. Anita Perry is instead in Maryland for the Army-Navy football game.

While the Perry campaign kept mum about how their candidate was preparing, an aide told ABC News that Perry is in a good mood and looking forward to the debate. He started off the debate day by jogging on the treadmill at his gym in the Embassy Suites hotel.

Gingrich, Perry and Santorum all took a break from debate prep to speak at the Veterans Presidential Candidate Forum in Des Moines. Michele Bachmann bowed out of the event at the last minute, choosing instead to have an uninterrupted day of preparation.

Ron Paul was also absent from the veterans forum, and instead held a town hall in Marshalltown, about 50 miles outside of debate-town Des Moines.

The debate, hosted by ABC News, begins at 9 p.m.ET , 8 p.m. central time.

ABC News' Arlette Saenz, Emily Friedman, John Berman, and Jonathan Karl contributed to this report. 

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