Pro wrestler Eric Hartsburg (@supererico) is used to being the bad guy, so for him, showcasing his political beliefs on the side of his face with a tattoo of Mitt Romney's campaign logo is another way to rile up part of the crowd.
"With wrestling, perception is reality," he told Playbook. "I get paid to be the bad guy. So I'll be the bad guy and use the stigma against the Republican Party to my advantage."
Hartsburg, of Michigan City, Ind., received $15,000 from an undisclosed "local" buyer he termed as "a friend who is definitely a Republican" to get the red and blue Romney-Ryan logo permanently tattooed on -- naturally -- the right side of his face.
"The negative perception of the Republican Party goes back to the Nixon years," Hartsburg said. "People look at the Republican Party like they're the bogeyman under the bed. Now, since I've gotten the tattoo, I'm able to inform people that we're not the bogeyman. The guy who wants to be the Republican president is more than what you've been told."
When Hartsburg, 30, decided to sell space on his face to the highest bidder on eBay, he turned down a request to get "a racist and lewd" tattoo placed on his forehead for $5,000. The eventual buyer contacted him with the idea of the Romney logo. "We decided to something tasteful, as tasteful as a facial tattoo can be." The space on his forehead is still available via private auction.
"It's something I believe in and I can live with for the rest of my life. When Romney is elected, I'll be looked at as a visionary. As the groundhog of the presidential election," Hartsburg said. "If Romney is not elected. I'll be the Dukakis guy."
The reaction to the tattoo, which has received national coverage on multiple news, political and sports-themed websites, has been as polarized as the general electorate. Hartsburg said that when he visited to a local Wal-Mart on Monday, a woman hugged him and called him "a hero to the Republican Party," and someone else cursed at him while he was checking out -- "all that on the same trip."
The 6-1, 202-pound Hartsburg wrestles under the name of "Erico" and defeated his 15-year-old son, Taylor -- "The Golden Boy” (@GoldenBoy) -- in a match Saturday in Bourbon, Ind. Hartsburg, who often wrestles in the Milwaukee area, is scheduled to enter the squared circle next in Cincinnati in three weeks -- an offer that came as a direct result of his newfound fame.
"I'd love to wrestle for [WWE CEO] Vince McMahon, but he's not banging my door down," Hartsburg said. McMahon's wife, Linda, is running for the U.S. Senate as a Republican in Connecticut. "I'll be a mascot for her campaign if they need one."