WI: The Donation of Pepin restored the Exarchate of Ravenna.

IOTL, after the Exarchate of Ravenna fell to the Lombards, the Pope turned away from Constantinople as his traditional protector, and looked to the Franks for aid. Following Frankish intervention, the territories of the Exarchate of Ravenna were restored, but not given to the Exarch as the first agreement seemed to imply, instead being directly ruled by the Pope, establishing the Papal States.

What if the Donation of Pepin, instead of giving the Exarchate's territory to the Pope, restored the Exarchate of Ravenna instead? Is this plausible? After all, Ravenna had already fallen in in the 730's and had been restored. What long term effects would this have on Italy and Western Europe?
You would need to have a stronger and more stable empire in the east to accomplish this I imagine. The hard part about it is that the Exarchate would have hardly needed to be restored in the first place if the eastern empire was able to dedicate resources to protecting the Papacy and maintaining imperial authority in Italy. Once you traverse down that hill, it's hard to go back up it. The Pax Nicephori really demonstrated just how weak Byzantine suzerainty over Istria, Dalmatia, and the Adriatic in general was. If the Pope decided, against all prior realignment to the Franks, to restore the Exarchate to the emperor in Constantinople, then I imagine it just gets subdued by the Franks quickly and the Pope has to reconsider his position. You can't exactly bet on a horse that can't race. A further back PoD? Absolutely possible though. I think a surviving alignment of the Papacy with the east would be pretty fascinating. The Papacy actually demonstrated a fairly remarkable level of loyalty to the eastern empire even during the worst waves of imperial-sponsored Iconoclasm like under Leo III. The idea of a true Papal State didn't hardly become an aim until it was clear that the eastern empire was a basket case that couldn't protect the Pope from new competitors like the Lombard Kingdom. But yeah, avoiding the Twenty Years Anarchy entirely would probably be enough to do the trick. It might even butterfly the second wave of imperial-sponsored iconoclasm which did a lot of damage to east-west religious relations.