After working to please the Trump base for two years, the Florida governor has the opportunity to appeal to mainstream voters by managing the hurricane response.
At least 21 people in Florida are dead and nearly 2 million remain without power.
Hurricane Ian has regained some strength after exiting Florida and taking aim at South Carolina.
The Flagler Beach pier on the east coast of Florida has sustained significant damage as Hurricane Ian whipped up waves that broke off a large portion of the wooden structure.
Tony Atkins of WESH 2 in Orlando said he first looked for crocodiles and downed power lines before wading into the swirling, waist-high waters.
The destruction was likened to a large tornado having barreled through, with homes and buildings "completely gone.”
More than 2.6 million people were without power in Florida.
Hundreds of hospital patients were being evacuated from facilities across the Fort Myers region Thursday after damage from Hurricane Ian cut off water supplies.
President Joe Biden said there were reports of "substantial loss of life" as rescue missions remained underway.
"It is what you think it is," Fort Myers correspondent Kyla Galer said.