You’re probably righg about Aiken winning had he run again in 1974, even at age 82. In fact, I doubt that Leahy would have run against Aiken, Watergate or no Watergate. (Maybe Leahy would have run against Stafford in 1976, but I don’t think he’d do much better than Salmon’s 45%.) And with Reagan running so strongly in VT in 1980, I share your optimism about the GOP winning the open seat in 1980 when Aiken retired at age 88, whether with Ledbetter or another candidate. 1986 would have been a tough hold for any Republican in VT, but even if the seat finally went RAT that year, not having Leahy elected to the Senate in 1974 (nor any other Dem for another 12 years) may have postponed VT’s slide to moonbattery for another decade or so.
As for David Pryor, I’m not as certain as you that he would have been reelected had he run in 1996. Sasser got beat in TN to years before, with him about to become Majority Leader, and Southern Dem seats were dropping left and right in those days (it took some creative voting and vote-counting for Landrieu to be reelected in 1996). But perhaps you’re right and Pryor would have scared off Tim Hutchinson and other strong Republicans.
And I do recall you mentioning that if Griffin ran fir the Senate it might cause the House seat to flip, and I agree it would have been a real concern. But with Griffin staying in the House and getting on Ways and Means, I think the seat is safe for the forseeable future.
In hindsight, given the way TH would lose reelection, Jay Dickey may have been a better choice, and minus an infidelity scandal, he'd have held the seat for 3 terms. Dickey was only defeated for reelection in 2000 when the Clintons went the extra mile to personally take him out in retaliation for the impeachment.
I still wouldn't compare the situation with Pryor vs. Sasser, since Pryor wasn't running in 1994 and GOP strength was fairly nascent in AR. Other than Huckster winning an unusual special election in 1993 for Lt Governor, the GOP didn't gain anything of note in 1994. They couldn't beat Jim Guy Tucker and merely retained the 2 House seats they already had (the solid GOP 3rd, which hadn't gone Dem since 1964, and Dickey's 4th).
Here in TN, the state was badly suffering from Dem fatigue (partly resulting from a 20-year extension of Dem dominance due to Watergate) and it was fairly clear we would make strong gains (and we did, with both Senate seats falling at once, the Governorship, and 5 out of 9 House seats, up from 3 -- and just narrowly losing a 6th seat in my neighboring 6th district). It was solely due to gerrymandering that we failed to capture the legislature, as we received a majority of votes (landslide for the GOP seats, narrow wins for the Dem seats). Of course, it would take us 16 more years to finally solidify majority control in both Houses.
Back to AR again, I noted that while the GOP narrowly won control of the House this time, it wasn't as wide as it should've been, with the Dems taking out some "controversial" members in GOP-leaning seats (one guy in Jonesboro who opined about slavery being a good thing -- dumb stuff that you might discuss as an academic exercise, but nothing one would go on about in a serious way publicly). I think the Dems knocked out 3 GOP incumbents, and had they taken out 2 more, would've kept the majority. Term limits has at least finally had the positive impact in AR with getting the GOP to a majority (it did initially in the '90s until Huckster actually managed to preside over losses..., though under Beebe, the growth resumed again).
In another cycle or two, I expect the GOP will probably reach upwards of 60 seats in the House. The problem they had was a serious inability to win outside of the NW/Ozark tier of counties and the Little Rock suburbs. Ultimately, other than urban liberal precincts of L.R., Dem strength will likely be confined exclusively to the SE area of the state and along the Mississippi, the seriously impoverished and stagnant Black majority areas. Basically, what the map for President looked like this year...
The county just below L.R.'s Pulaski, Jefferson, is where Pine Bluff is. Despite its relatively close proximity to the capital and access to the Arkansas River, it is a very sad and deteriorating place. PB held roughly the same population (above 50k) for some time, but there's just no new growth at all. The real growth is occurring in the GOP counties surrounding Pulaski along I-40 and northwards.
PB at least hasn't reached Helena-style collapse, over in Phillips County (2 counties east of Jefferson's PB), which cast the highest % for Zero in the state -- 66% to 33%. What's so sad is these river counties could be big tourist draws with the right leadership, but so long as they have corrupt Dems with an entitlement and blame Whitey mindset, they'll remain mired in poverty and high crime.