The showdown starts Tuesday, with Fantasia ahead of Diana in betting pools

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated May 25, 2004 08:00 AM

It’s the final showdown for American Idol 3: Fantasia Barrino and Diana DeGarmo will go head-to-head on Tuesday, with the big winner announced Wednesday during the FOX talent hunt’s two-hour live season finale.

Both contestants will sing three songs each on Tuesday night, and viewers will have four hours after the show to cast votes by phone.

Going into Tuesday’s episode, the ReadaBet Web site has Fantasia in the lead, with odds of 1 to 4 to win, with Diana’s at 5 to 2. The New York Post puts the odds as 5:2 for Fantasia and 4:1 for Diana. reports that Diana has picked up in popularity as Tuesday night approaches, after entering the competition nearly friendless. Judge Simon Cowell has predicted publicly, however, that the $1 million recording contract will land in the lap of Diana.

Meanwhile, support for the two Southerners (Fantasia, 19, is from High Point, N.C., and Diana, 16, from Snellville, Ga.) is coming in from their respective state governors, North Carolina’s Mike Easley and Georgia’s Sonny Perdue.

“I think history will judge me as a man who was neutral in American Idol competitions when decorum called for it, but now the rubber is hitting the road. I am standing by Diana DeGarmo,” Perdue said in a statement Monday.

Easley wrote Fantasia last week and invited her to visit Raleigh regardless of Wednesday’s outcome, the Associated Press reports. On Monday, he asked North Carolinians to help her win.

“He encourages people to watch the show and vote for the best talent – and that’s Fantasia,” said Ernie Seneca, a spokesman for Easley, who reportedly is an Idol fan.

For the record, just about every Idol winner has strong Southern roots. Kelly Clarkson hails from Texas, and Ruben Studdard is from Alabama. Last year’s runner-up, Clay Aiken, is from North Carolina, and the first season’s second-place singer, Justin Guarini, may have come from Pennsylvania, but he actually grew up in Georgia.