It's that time of year. The state Democratic and Republican parties held their annual "Where do we go from here?" meetings in Phoenix on Saturday. And my, how quickly times change.

A year ago, Democrats were ebullient after grabbing control of the White House and both houses of Congress. Anti-Republican backlash was at its peak.

It didn't take long for the bloom to come off that rose.

On the heels of the Massachusetts Senate win, Republicans were ready to rock, cheering and leaping up for repeated standing ovations in the dimly lighted auditorium of Saguaro High School in Scottsdale.

The speakers - both senators, the GOP congressional delegation, the governor and statewide officeholders - were milking the moment, with one-liners aimed at President Obama and Congress.

• U.S. Sen. John McCain said he will vote against Fed chief Ben Bernanke, then railed against the insider deals in the healthcare-overhaul plan. With the "Cornhusker kickback, the Louisiana purchase and the Florida flimflam," he said, the process was a "disgrace."

• U.S. Rep. Trent Franks quipped it was comforting that "those of us in liberal havens like Arizona can count on conservative strongholds like Massachusetts when the chips are down." He also thanked Obama, a head-scratcher for most of the crowd until he continued that no other force might have been able to reunify the party so well in less than a year.

• Treasurer Dean Martin, a gubernatorial candidate, mocked former Gov. Janet Napolitano's immigration stance. Napolitano once said, "Show me a 50-foot fence and I'll show you a 51-foot ladder," he noted. Maybe so, he continued. "But it's a whole lot easier to find a guy running through the desert with a 51-foot ladder."

Meanwhile, it was a much more subdued bunch of Demo-crats who gathered at a downtown Phoenix hotel.

No wonder, because instead of elected insiders with the gift of glib, they heard from the entire lineup of 2010 statewide hopefuls - exhibiting varying degrees of political polish.

But they woke up for Attorney General Terry Goddard, who is officially in the race for governor and who received the only standing ovation the crowd could muster. With his elder-statesman persona, not particularly known for fiery rhetoric, Goddard nonetheless had a zinger lined up.

The Republicans, he noted, had just wrapped up their own state committee meeting and were already capitalizing on the Supreme Court ruling allowing corporate donations. They sold the naming rights to the entire party, he intoned. "From now on, they will be known as the Payday Lenders Party."

Meanwhile, Treasurer Martin, shifting into his gubernatorial-candidate mode, was quick to tout a new Rasmussen Reports poll showing he had the best shot taking Goddard to the political woodshed.

Only a week into the race, the poll showed him 9 percentage points ahead of Goddard. Gov. Jan Brewer was within 2 points of Goddard, said the phone survey of 1,000 likely voters.

Martin not only got to speak to the statewide crowd by virtue of being an officeholder, but he got to park his big bus in the parking lot as well.

Nevertheless, Tucson attorney and Republican gubernatorial candidate John Munger gets props for his campaign getting the early worm - his peeps secured the most strategic place for his campaign signs, right at the entrance to the parking lot.

And Brewer gets props for eliciting loyalty: Her volunteers worked the parking lot, wearing red T-shirts, in the damp, bitterly cold morning.

City Council newcomer Steve Kozachik's first newsletter to his ward has a shocking lack of exclamation points.

His ever-animated predecessor, Nina Trasoff, was quite fond of them in her own enthusiastic newsletters. Her early December 2008 newsletter had 17, for example - not counting the title "Perspectives!" A second shout-out to voters later that month showed a similar fondness, although to be fair, a reference to the Scott Avenue streetscape project completion earned a cluster of five of them all by itself. But still.

Kozachik, by comparison? Zip.

That's not the way to earn the Prince of Punctuation title.

Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at 573-4243 or