On the day that John Edwards — the only remaining Democratic contender whose positions earned praise from Ralph Nader — quit the presidential race, supporters of the consumer advocate announced the creation of an exploratory committee to prepare a fall bid by Nader for the nation’s top job.

Nader’s 2000 run for the presidency as the Green Party nominee won 2,883,105 votes (2.74 percent of the popular total) and the enmity of Democrats who claimed the support the left-leaning candidate attracted in Florida and New Hampshire cost Al Gore those states and the presidency.

Nader campaigned again for the presidency again in 2004 as an independent, winning 463,653 votes (0.38 percent).

Even as he has stirred the scorn of political insiders, Nader remains the iconic figure portrayed in the Henriette Mantel and Steve Skrovan’s brilliant documentary, “An Unreasonable Man.” He can still attract media attention, draw crowds and stir the political pot.

In the run up to this year’s presidential race, Nader has flirted with the Green Party again — he participated in a mid-January debate among Green candidates in California, where he’s on the party’s primary ballot — while also talking about the prospect of making an independent run.

Nader has been absolutely consistent in one thing, however, and that is his rejection of Hillary Clinton, who he dismisses as “a panderer” with “no political fortitude.” Before the Iowa caucuses, Nader signed an anti-Clinton letter that asked: “Do you really believe if we replace a bunch of corporate Republicans with a bunch of corporate Democrats, that anything meaningful is going to change?”

“This has to stop. It’s that simple,” Nader and his allies said of the Clinton candidacy in particular and compromises on the part of the Democratic Party in general.

As for Republican frontrunner John McCain, Nader correctly characterizes the Arizona senator — who is two years his junior — as “the candidate of perpetual war.”

There’s not much question that Nader would be willing to run against Clinton and McCain. Whether he would want to join a race featuring McCain and Barack Obama — whose candidacy has at least something of the insurgent character that Nader has sought to restore to American politics — remains to be determined.

Conveniently, Nader will spend the month in which Clinton and Obama resolve their battle for the Democratic nomination exploring whether to mount a 2008 campaign of his own.

Nader’s exploratory committee, which is in the process of filing papers with the U.S. Federal Election Commission, has set up a website that declares the veteran battler for consumer and environmental protection is “committed to challenging the corporate powers that have a hammerlock on our political and economic systems.”

The committee, made up of Nader stalwarts from past campaigns, has issued a sort of manifesto that declares:

Maybe we’re wrong.

Maybe the Democrats and Republicans will nominate Presidential candidates this year who will stand up against the war profiteers, the nuclear industry, the credit card industry, the corporate criminals, big oil, and the drug and health insurance industries.

We doubt it.

But hope springs eternal.

In the meantime, take a few minutes and explore with us an idea.

The idea is this–1,000 citizens in every Congressional district.

Each and every one committed to challenging the corporate powers that have a hammerlock on our political and economic systems.

Organized citizen power facing off against corporate power.

In this election year – 2008.

Instead of spending this election year sitting back and watching the corporate candidates spin their vapid mantras – hope, experience, change.

Instead of spending the year complaining about inertia, exhaustion, and apathy.

Let us instead weigh the possibility of pulling together half a million dedicated citizens collectively rising up off our couches and organizing a ground force in every Congressional district in the country.

A ground force of citizens who are informed, committed, tenacious advocates for a just future.

This is what we are contemplating.

Something new.

Something big.

Something bold.

Something that works.

Something that will prod young and old alike.

To join in a mass push back against the corporate powers that are dictating our future.

No one person can get us there.

But one person is ideally suited to lead this grassroots force – if he chooses to do so and runs as the citizens’ candidate for President in 2008.

And that one person is Ralph Nader.