The paper has a huge front page story showing the hit to the economy from each of the components of the showdown (e.g. the specific tax cuts that are ending and the various spending cuts). The problem is that what the article shows as the hit to the economy is the hit if nothing is done all year, it has zero, nothing, nada, to do with the impact of letting the December 31st deadline pass, with the tax increases and spending cuts reversed early in 2013. It is unlikely that many USA Today readers will recognize this fact and therefore will be badly misled by this front page article. (Given this fact, it is difficult to see why USA Today would devote so much space to this graph.)
The Republicans are working hard to try to build up fears around this deadline because they know that President Obama will be in a much better negotiating position after the end of the year. The USA Today piece fits with this agenda.