U.S. Senate hopeful Mark Jacobs was touting a new fundraising haul Thursday, but Joni Ernst, a Republican rival, had a ready reply:

"Money can't buy Iowa values," the Red Oak Republican told the Quad-City Times.

Ernst, who was campaigning in the area Thursday as part of an eastern Iowa swing, continued to try to distinguish herself from Jacobs, a retired energy company executive who launched his campaign last fall.

Jacobs' campaign announced that he had raised $400,000 in the last six weeks of the year. That was more, the campaign noted, than all of his opponents combined for the third quarter.

Ernst hasn't released her fourth-quarter fundraising results and wouldn't characterize them Thursday.

Instead, she emphasized Jacobs' relative absence from the state. A graduate of Des Moines' Roosevelt High School, he worked in New York and also headed Houston-based Reliant Energy before returning to Iowa in 2012. He now lives in West Des Moines.

"Money can't buy Iowa values, and for someone that has been absent from the state for over three decades, he's got a lot of territory to make up," Ernst said.

She emphasized her work in the state Senate, as well as the military. Ernst is a member of the Iowa National Guard.

"I can tell you I have been here," she said. "I have served Iowans in many capacities, and I'm ready to do that again as a United States senator."

Alissa Ohl, a Jacobs spokeswoman responded: "It is precisely Mark’s Iowa values and focus on creating jobs that has helped him raise more money from Iowans than any other U.S. Senate candidate to date."

Ernst and Jacobs are among a half dozen Republicans who are running for the GOP nomination.

Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker, radio talk show host Sam Clovis and Scott Schaben, an auto dealership manager, also are in the running.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, is the likely Democratic nominee.

A four-term member of Congress, Braley has been building a healthy cash lead over the Republican field.

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Through the end of September, he had raised $3.2 million.

Ernst had raised about $252,000 through the end of September, while Whitaker raised $220,000 and Clovis $64,000 through the third quarter. Schaben had raised $8,000.

Jacobs' $400,000 in six weeks, Brian Dumas, his campaign manager, is a sign he's a "first-rate" candidate.

In addition to drawing distinctions with Jacobs in her visit Thursday, Ernst continued to hammer Braley for his support of the Affordable Care Act.

She questioned whether many Iowans are getting insurance coverage as a result of the act, whose marketplaces opened for business last October.

"We're not even sure people are covered," she said, pointing to the state of Iowa's request last month that thousands of Iowans who had applied for Medicaid coverage through the federal HealthCare.gov website reapply to the state.