If those popularity polls are any indication, Texas cocktail waitress Kelly Clarkson is the odds-on favorite to win American Idol tonight (live 8-10 pm/ET on Fox). But as host Ryan Seacrest points out, don't underestimate Justin Guarini's core fan base.
"You have a lot of teenage girls who watch the TV show but probably don't participate in those online and newspaper polls," he tells TV Guide Online. "And like we've seen in the past with Tamyra [Gray], anything can happen."
That's a sentiment shared by Judge Dread Simon Cowell. Although the acid-tongued critic confesses he's personally rooting for Clarkson, he says that her victory is hardly a foregone conclusion. "You've got to remember, every week someone's voted out — so all of those votes have to go to somebody else," he notes. "Also, in this competition, you're judged by [your performance that] night. Anything can happen on 'the night.'
Well, true to form, Clarkson knocked three more out of the park during last evening's final performance edition. "Clearly, she's the best singer left in the whole thing, and that's what it's all about," says fellow pundit Randy Jackson. "Somebody great needs to win in order for this whole thing to have made sense. And when you say it's a 'Search for a Superstar,' she is probably the best would-be candidate — other than Tamyra."