If they ever make a Nikki Haley action figure, it has to come with a little laptop.

That is, by far, the governor's most effective weapon.

Last week, Haley was miffed that state senators were beating up on her Department of Social Services director, the disappearing Lillian Koller. Things were not going the way the governor wanted, so she moved the fight to an arena where she is the undisputed champion: cyberspace.

Haley got on the Facebook and said it was "Amazing that senators are criticizing her for setting goals and accomplishing them." She even called out her alleged friend, Sen. Katrina Shealy, claiming Shealy called Koller an atheist.

Them's fighting words.

Of course Shealy fought back, but how much traction could she expect to get against Haley, who has more than 121,000 followers on the Facebook?

That is more than the circulation of any newspaper in the state.

Haley's social media antics may seem silly to some people, and it keeps South Carolina in the national news, but it is also going to get her re-elected.

Haley News Network

Now, some people - OK, a lot of people - believe that it is beneath a governor to get into a Mean Girls-type spat on the Internet.

It's hard to imagine former governors, say, Ronald Reagan, needling his buddy Tip O'Neill on Twitter, had such a thing existed then. Not even Bill Clinton would do that, although he might find other uses for the Facebook.

Ultimately, Haley should be above it, too. Like her or not, she is the governor of South Carolina and it seems a little low-rent to jump on message boards like all those idiots who sit in their underwear, or in their mom's basement - or both - making ridiculous pronouncements.

But you can't argue with the governor's results.

Haley uses the Facebook expertly, publishing the grip-and-grin photos the newspapers no longer have the space, or inclination, to run. She posts self-promotional photos of her and her husband on "date night" at the White House.

And she puts out state news, unedited by the mainstream media - always from her point of view.

Dave Woodard, the Clemson political scientist, says Haley is bypassing regular media quite effectively.

"I don't hear from Lindsey Graham or Tim Scott like I hear from Nikki Haley," Woodard says. "Some of it is sort of silly, but she's reaching regular everyday voters, and their votes count just like people with Phds. And she's got to do something, because the media isn't doing a great job for her."

So Haley sends out daily posts offering her opinion on big stories, breaking her own news and beating up on lawmakers. And that's great politics. Those guys, as Woodard notes, are about as popular as prostitutes, drug dealers and lawyers in South Carolina.

Detractors can call Nikki Haley a lightweight all they want, but in this one aspect at least, she is a genius.

Cyber-cynicism

Right after Christmas, Haley posted a photo of a 9mm pistol on her Facebook page, calling it her present from Santa.

Well, from her husband.

Now there are probably millions of people who posted pics of their Christmas presents online, but most of them weren't gearing up to run for re-election in a state that worships firearms.

Was it pandering? Of course.

Was it brilliant? Absolutely.

Picking this fight with Shealy was equally savvy. You see, DSS has some trouble. They sent a kid back into a troubled home, and the child was killed. That is a catastrophic failure. The state Senate, in bipartisan fashion, is well within its rights to grill Koller about this. It's their job, in fact.

But Haley has been on top of this for awhile. Earlier this month she posted statistics that indicate DSS is doing great - child fatalities down 25 percent, adoptions up 11 percent. Those are good numbers, worth reporting.

Then last week she suggested all this criticism is a bunch of bullying, backwoods lawmakers berating a woman who has "dramatically improved the agency since she took over in 2010 in spite of this (sic) political games by certain senators."

Is any of this back-and-forth going to solve the problems of people who depend on DSS? No.

Is it good politics?

You betcha.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com