Round One to the Democrats

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: It's three days into Fred Thompson's Watergate Hearings, and Democrats are already proclaiming victory. "We were definitely more coordinated than they were," says New Jersey Senator Bob Torricelli. So far, Torricelli says, "These campaign finance hearings are the Washington equivalent of Hollywood's 'Waterworld' -- extraordinary expectations and enormous preparation for something that, at this point, appears to lack substance." After launching the hearings with a bang on Tuesday, the committee become mired in two days of laborious testimony from former Democratic National Committee finance director Richard Sullivan that, despite the GOP's best efforts, produced little. "Its important to note that the attention on Johnny Chung and Charlie Trie didn't really come out of Sullivan's testimony," says TIME's Viveca Novak. "The Republicans are so desperate to keep these hearings interesting, they started throwing in these references, even when they knew that Sullivan knew absolutely nothing about it. They know their hearings are going down the tubes." Meanwhile, the Democrats launched a well-orchestrated counterattack, both on the Web and in the hearings. While Fred Thompson has said he is more concerned about conducting a thorough investigation than grabbing headlines, he knows that creating a coherent narrative for the public is also important. "Next week, we're going to hear about the Lippo group," notes Novak. "The Republicans don't expect to have any real bombshells. Yet they've got to figure out how to keep the public interested. And they've got to come up with better evidence."