Portlet Wiring

I have 2 portlets on a page. One portlet is a dropdown select box; the value the user selects is mapped to a portlet preference. The second portlet has a button that when clicked calls an IS service, passing an input parameter to get the results which are posted on the page. The input value for the second “report” portlet is mapped to a portlet preference. On the page, the portlets are “wired” together, with the second portlet’s portlet preference wired to the first portlet’s portlet preference (the selected value from dropdown box) as the source.
After multiple attempts, I can finally run the page without binding errors, but I get no results…the report is empty. It should not be because the only values in the dropdown box are those that have data to report.
I have followed instructions step by step again and again. Yet, I don’t know where or why the portlet preference value is not carried over from one to the other. I am hindered by the fact that I am NOT a java programmer, and I cannot for the life of me figure out HOW to run Designer 7.2 in a way that I can step through the code to see what is happening.
Can someone, anyone give me tips on what I may be doing wrong? How can I debug this? Thanks for any and all help.

I’m having a hard time visualizing this scenario. Is it possible to simplify it a bit at least for diagnostic purposes?

For instance, is it possible to build this with just one portlet hiding and showing the report once you get valid user input? I think that the wiring in conjunction with the async data input is probably making this scenario fairly complex to diagnose.