South Carolina gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Haley just saw her national star rise higher this week with her first cover on a major weekly news magazine -- and state Democrats began targeting her anew, saying she's developing her national profile at the expense of the state.

The Newsweek story on Haley, headlined Woman on the Verge, calls her "attractive and earthy, with a gleaming smile and a steely resolve. ... She's remarkably poised for someone fairly new to politics."

The piece also compares her smarts and articulateness favorably with Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and tea party favorite whose endorsement of Haley provided her a key boost.

S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster, who lost to Haley in the GOP primary, said, "We have a new leader for the conservative movement in this country, right here in South Carolina."

But state Democrats quickly seized on the cover to say she was developing her national celebrity at the expense of the state. They unveiled a new website, NikkiGoesNational.com, to highlight her national news appearances.

"In the two weeks since she won the nomination ... Haley has granted zero interviews to local press and made only one public appearance," the party said in a statement.

"Mark Sanford must be very sad to see his star student turn her back on him for Joe Scarborough and Greta Van Susteren," added South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler. "Then again, I'm not surprised; after all, she learned at the knee of a man who seemed more concerned with Argentina and the Appalachian Trail than South Carolina families. I guess the local press is just too small-time for her."

Haley faces Democrat Vincent Sheheen in the general election.

The Newsweek story notes that if Haley wins in November, as current polls predict, South Carolina's first female and first nonwhite governor "will likely rocket to national prominence and secure a spot in the GOP firmament."

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771 or at rbehre@postandcourier.com.