Evan McMullin estimates he had 131 Twitter followers when he entered the presidential race in August. Today he has 168,000.
Despite a campaign that never had a shot of landing him in the White House and only made the ballot in 11 states, McMullin has rapidly built up his image as a principal irritant of President-elect Donald Trump. On his "thank you" tour, Trump has taken to calling McMullin "McMuffin" and proclaiming "I never heard of this guy before."
"I think the reason for that is I'm his only opponent during the election who has stayed vocal," said McMullin, in an interview Monday at CNBC's San Francisco bureau. "I wasn't just running against him in the election because I was only committed to liberty and equality for a few months. I was running against him because I knew, I saw the danger that he posed to the country."
McMullin, a former CIA operative, investment banker and chief policy director of the House Republican Conference, is in San Francisco to meet with investors and potential partners as he tries to figure out where to go from here. He lived in the Bay Area from 2010 to 2013 when he worked for Goldman Sachs.
Our charming President-elect @realDonaldTrump has a new nickname for me: "McMuffin." I like it. Am I now on the hook to reciprocate?
Having run as an independent conservative candidate and with a growing audience on both sides of the political aisle, the 40-year-old McMullin is in a unique position to build a resistance to what he views as the dangers and potential overreaches of a future President Trump.
The Utah native and former Mormon missionary, who won 21 percent of the vote in his home state, isn't ready to divulge his plans, in large part because he's not sure exactly how it will all unfold. But he did tell CNBC that he's very interested in combining the power of digital media with real political action.
"Those of us who are standing for freedom and for our democracy, we've got to learn to use those tools much better than we have," he said. "We've got to stand for truth and use digital media in order to do that most effectively."
Of gravest concern to McMullin is the influence that Russia is having in the U.S. in ways that go well beyond hacking the Democratic National Committee's computer system and leaking emails with the intent, according to the CIA and FBI, of swaying the election to Trump.