Mr. Reese was a founder and godfather of the professional political consulting business. During a career that spanned more than three decades, he worked in more than 450 political campaigns in the United States and abroad. Among his candidates were Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), Russell Long (D-La.), Charles S. Robb (D-Va.) and John Glenn (D-Ohio); House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr. (D-Mass.); and several governors and local officials.
In 1960, Mr. Reese came to national prominence when he organized the volunteer campaign on behalf of Sen. John F. Kennedy in West Virginia’s Democratic presidential primary. From the basement of the Kanawha Hotel in Charleston, he worked the telephones 18 hours a day with other Kennedy staff members to tap a groundswell of grass-roots support that would eventually capture West Virginia for the Massachusetts senator, a critical step on his road to the White House.
After Kennedy’s election, Mr. Reese ran the voter registration division of the Democratic National Committee.
For the 1964 presidential election, his efforts were said to have added 4 million voters to the registration lists.
In 1966, he left the Democratic National Committee and formed Matt Reese & Associates, which later became Reese Communications Companies Inc.
As an adviser to office-seekers, Mr. Reese was known for a zealous pursuit of two kinds of voters: those who could be persuaded to support his candidate and those who were already favorably disposed but needed prodding to get to the polls on election day.