With only two days to go until the Iowa caucuses and a little more than a week until the New Hampshire primary, political junkies in the other 48 states are supposed to be consumed with jealousy.

We’ve felt that way in the past, but not this year, and maybe never again.

The two first-in-the nation contests used to be special, events in which a long-shot candidate could shake enough hands and make a compelling case to voters who were willing to take the time and listen.

Candidates such as Jimmy Carter, Paul Tsongas, Barack Obama and John McCain were able to emerge from Iowa or New Hampshire with enough name recognition and momentum to make a serious run at the White House.

But times have changed, and the first two contests are just part of the rest of a shallow, chaotic process.

Yes, the candidates all go to diners, but only as part of scripted photo ops. TV buys are the real battleground, and the first-in-the nation voters don’t get to know these contenders any better than the rest of us. The instate polls have been almost identical to the national polls, meaning a resident of Dubuque or Manchester has no more insight than someone in Milwaukee or Los Angeles, despite all the retail politics that has supposed to have taken place.

Part of the blame goes to the party organizations in the two states. In their steadfast intent to remain first, they have moved their contests so far up the calendar they are barely in the election year. The next primaries and caucuses follow so quickly the candidates just don’t have time to camp out in Iowa or New Hampshire and get to know people.

You also can blame the way we consume media. We see so much of the candidates, we get sick of them before we have a chance to be intrigued. Mitt Romney has been running for president since 2006, and he spent 2011 fighting off a parade of rivals as primary voters fell in (and out of) love with fresh faces.

It’s too late this year, but there is a better way. For 2016, the parties could agree to have four regional primaries, one month apart, starting in March of the election year. The system would give candidates the ability to focus on issues that matter and stick around long enough to be well-known by the voters.

In the end, regional differences likely would have to be brokered to come up with a nominee, which is a process that sounds a lot like what a president has to do in office.

The current process in not in our constitution. It’s something the parties created on their own and something they should change for the good of the country.