First, the poll analysis...
My biggest pet peeve is when pollsters don't state the margin of error for the sub-samples that they break out.
Here is the meat on the CRA poll, with those margins.
Decided vote (sample of 646)
MOE +/- 3.9%
Decided and leaning vote (sample of 1065)
Won't vote/refused 14%
MOE +/- 3.0%
Decided and leaning by region*
"Northern NB" (sample of 367)
Won't vote/refused 13%
MOE +/- 5.1%
"Southern NB" (sample of 462)
Won't vote/refused 13%
MOE +/- 4.6%
"Moncton and area" (sample of 236)
Won't vote/refused 16%
MOE +/- 6.4%
* these regions are not defined by the pollster or the newspaper. For the purposes of this analysis I will assume that the north is approximately Victoria, Madawaska, Restigouche, Gloucester and Northumberland counties, the south is Kings, Queens, Saint John, Charlotte, York, Sunbury and Carleton counties and Greater Moncton is Kent, Westmorland and Albert counties. The number of ridings for each group is equivalent to the relevant proportion of the total sample that CRA has assigned to the regions.
What is probably the most interesting thing about this poll is that the voter preferences are relatively even across the province. I think that many people would have assumed the Liberals and particularly the NDP would be stronger in the north, but that is not the case.
The best way to give these results some context is to compare them by region to the results in 2006, here goes... These tables show the 2006 results and then takes the won't votes and undecideds out of the sample:
Things look very good for the PCs to make gains in the north, with the NDP splitting the vote with the Liberals, and the Tories holding their 2006 vote there. Now, the Liberals won most of their ridings up there by healthy margins, so the split won't allow a big PC wave (unless it worsens), however it should make for an interesting result on the close seats.
In the south (Greater Fredericton and Greater Saint John), the Tories are down from 2006 but within the margin, while the Liberals are down by a statistically significant amount.
In Greater Moncton, the Liberals are holding their 2006 vote, while the Tories are well off of their vote - this was to be expected with Bernard Lord off of the ballot and won't really affect my predictions there.
The result is 9 prediction changes all in the PCs favour.
Madawaska-les-Lacs: from leans PC -> safe PC
This seat would always have been a long shot for the Liberals. Without a huge sweep of the north, this seat is almost certainly out of reach for them so I am moving it to safe PC.
Restigouche-la-Vallée: from leans Liberal -> tossup
The PC candidate is very strong, and is the younger sister of still-popular former MP Bernard Valcourt. All things being equal, I would give Liberal Burt Paulin the slight edge, but with the Liberals down 6 points from their 2006 result, it belongs in the toss up category.
Bathurst: from leans Liberal -> tossup
I have received a lot of emails from readers suggesting that this seat is definitely in play and that Nancy McKay may be able to make the third time the charm. That advice combined with the poll result pushes it into the toss up column.
Tracadie-Sheila: from toss up -> leans PC
Several readers have written to indicate what I also thought to be true - that Roger Duguay has made a big mistake by choosing this riding to run in. If he had run in Miramichi Bay-Neguac and taken votes from the Liberal he would have won. But here even if he takes all of the Liberal votes, he would still be well short of victory. The poll showing that the PC vote is holding to its 2006 levels in the north makes a Duguay victory and a possible Liberal victory (by sneaking up the middle) less and less likely.
Miramichi Centre: from toss up -> leans PC
This was the only seat on the Miramichi to go PC in 1982 (to that time, the best PC result ever). It still remains the most PC-leaning seat in the area.
Saint John-Fundy: from toss up -> leans PC
This should be, on paper, a safe PC seat any time. But the Liberals have won it in 5 of the last 6 elections on vote splits and the strength of Stuart Jamieson's candidacy. Jamieson has retired, but the Liberal to replace was his choice and is a strong candidate. Notwithstanding all of that, if the PCs are to pick up any seats in Greater Saint John, this is almost certainly the first one to fall.
Fredericton-Nashwaaksis: from toss up -> leans PC
In a traditionally Tory city, this is the traditionally strongest seat. Having gone COR in 1991, it clearly is a ("small c") conservative-leaning riding. It was also a bit of a nail biter in 2006 as compared to the other Fredericton-area ridings.
Grand Lake-Gagetown: from toss up -> leans PC
The Liberals barely hung on in this new riding in 2006, after a massive blowout in the old Grand Lake riding in 2003. There best hope here is that PANB leader Kris Austin splits the vote with the Tories, but based on this poll showing the PCs doing relatively better in the south/central regions of the province than last time, ridings like this that lack an incumbent and were close anyway have to be moved to leans PC.
York: from toss up -> leans PC
This is a traditional swing district and it bears watching, but with the Tories up in this region of the province and Urquhart now having the benefit of incumbency, I'll put it in the leans Tory column.
Projection summary - PCs have a slight edge:
Liberals: 23 (15 safe + 8 lean)
Conservatives: 24 (12 safe + 12 lean)
Toss up: 8