Nicholas Fonseca
May 07, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Which ”Idol” hopefuls have what it takes to win?

As Idol enters its final stretch, nobody’s denying that this is the closest race yet — especially since most contestants have done time in the bottom three. (Note: One head below will roll by the time you read this.) Viewers crown a winner May 26, but we’re already making bets on who’ll be crying tears of joy into Ryan Seacrest’s designer blazer that night.

LA TOYA LONDON THE EARLY FRONT-RUNNER REMINDS US OF Anita Baker WHY SHE’LL WIN Classy La Toya is tailor-made for a show like Idol, combining an effortlessly great voice, breathtaking looks, and plenty of humility. WHY SHE WON’T WIN Those qualities may nab her a beauty pageant title, but are they enough to withstand her good-and-getting-better competitors? Also, La Toya’s personality (or lack thereof) strikes some as chilly and calculating. Odds 1 — 1

FANTASIA BARRINO THE SPITFIRE REMINDS US OF Patti LaBelle WHY SHE’LL WIN She has more star quality in her bottom lip than the other five contestants combined; fans smarting over J. Hud’s expulsion may latch onto the confident ‘Tasia. WHY SHE WON’T WIN Web postings indicate moralistic viewers are clucking because the unmarried Fantasia, 19, has a 2-year-old daughter. And some say her outspokenness masks an attitude. Odds 2 — 1

GEORGE HUFF THE CHARMER REMINDS US OF Billy Ocean WHY HE’LL WIN Earns major Brownie points for staying positive; has been the strongest male singer for the entire contest. WHY HE WON’T WIN Is he dancing or having a seizure? Also, some think his voice hews too closely to 2003 Idol winner Ruben Studdard’s, though to George’s credit, he’s got 10 times more personality. Odds 3 — 2

DIANA DEGARMO THE GIRL NEXT DOOR REMINDS US OF Paula Abdul WHY SHE’LL WIN Because she’s this season’s resident Weeble, a surprisingly spunky go-getter who — despite plenty of wobbly moments — never falls down. (She was a beauty queen, after all.) WHY SHE WON’T WIN May give more cynical viewers sugar shock; youthful inexperience (she’s only 16) may also work against Diana, who too often seems to be performing at a high school pep rally. Odds 10 — 1

JASMINE TRIAS THE FLOWER CHILD REMINDS US OF Ashanti WHY SHE’LL WIN In a field full of outsize personalities, her sweet disposition is refreshing; contestants who capitalize on home-state pride often go far (see Utah’s Carmen Rasmusen). WHY SHE WON’T WIN Jasmine has never matched the powerful high of her week-1 rendition of ”Inseparable,” which was supposed to have announced her presence in this race. Odds 30 — 1

JOHN STEVENS THE THROWBACK REMINDS US OF Richie Cunningham WHY HE’LL WIN Never underestimate the power of a geeky male redhead who can charm women with his unique voice. WHY HE WON’T WIN His stubborn insistence on singing all genres of music as if he were Dean Martin has led to some truly heinous performances (”Crocodile Rock”); lacks anything that remotely resembles an ”edge.” Odds 40 — 1

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